In the United States, there are 318 million people and 270 million guns – about 88 guns per 100 people. Yet gun-rights activists insist that adding to that surplus of weapons is to be the ideal way to prevent gun violence.
Research clearly shows that when states have more gun-restricting laws, there are fewer gun-related homicides in those states. With mass shootings appearing almost every week this year, the idea of preventing gun violence becomes more and more urgent with every shooting. The most efficient and beneficial way to prevent these recurring gun-tragedies and ensure security among Americans is to increase gun regulation at the federal level.
Mass shootings aren’t a rare occurrence. According to “Shooting Tracker,” as of Oct. 1, 2015, not a week had gone by without at least one mass shooting. In some weeks, mass shootings are daily occurrences. As of Oct. 1, there had been 294 mass shootings thus far this year – with more tragic episodes since. For most people in our country, these numbers call for a change. However, gun-rights activists rely on a Utilitarian philosophy: The needs of the many to keep their guns outweigh the needs of the relatively few people dying in mass shootings.
Gun-rights activists suggest that increasing the amount of regulations – such as universal background checks and banning assault weapons – would take guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens, but wouldn’t affect criminals. Arguments like these simply aren’t backed by evidence. A study by The Washington Post found that gunmen in these mass shootings obtain their guns legally more often than not, meaning if they attempted to get a gun with a criminal history, they would not have been able to because of universal background checks. Adding regulations that could prevent an unstable person from obtaining a gun will only help prevent tragedies, not cause them.
One could argue that even if a killer couldn’t get his or her hands on a gun, he or she would kill anyway, but with a different weapon such as a knife. While guns don’t cause these mass shootings, they do provide a way to take as many lives as possible. Similar arguments are made in the debate about limiting magazine capacity on handguns. Most average 9 mm handguns, such as the Glock-17, hold magazines that contain about 15 to 17 rounds, which could result in 15 to 17 people wounded or killed in a mass shooting. In cases where the shooter used multiple magazines, if the capacity were seven bullets rather than 17, that is possibly 10 fewer people killed or injured per magazine used.
Many say that banning assault weapons and limiting magazine capacity is an infringement on the Second Amendment right to bear arms. The Amendment reads: “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Universal background checks and magazine capacity limitations maintain the rights stipulated by the Second Amendment, but regulate gun ownership in order to ensure security for every citizen in the United States. Arguments to keep assault weapons legal beg the question: Why do you need a military-grade weapon for home protection?
Before you can even argue for the Second Amendment, you have to look at the facts. The Second Amendment was passed by Congress in 1789 – a time where most guns were single-shot and only accurate up to 100 yards or so, with a reload time of around 30 seconds. The Second Amendment wasn’t written for the firearms and assault weapons that we have today, so we shouldn’t be using the same outdated amendment to determine how we regulate modern firearms as we did for inaccurate 18th century weapons.
Opponents of increased gun regulation suggest that gun control simply doesn’t work, but studies and research show just the opposite. New research by the Harvard Medical School shows that states with more gun restriction and gun laws have significantly lowered gun suicide and gun homicide rates than states with less gun control.
In many states, including Colorado, citizens must hold a learner’s permit for one year before getting their official driver’s license. Yet guns, which were invented and manufactured to cause harm to someone or something, whether it be an animal or a person, require fewer safety courses and regulations than for operating a vehicle in the United States. Given the safety implications, gun owners should be required by federal law to take gun-safety classes before purchasing their weapons and take annual gun-safety tests to retain their right to a gun. In the event that gun owners cannot successfully pass the annual safety test, they must retake the class until they can pass.
Guns are a part of American culture, and there is no getting rid of them, but there are ways to prevent criminals from getting their hands on guns, and keeping them away from the mentally unstable. Without stricter gun laws, these hundreds and hundreds of mass shootings will only grow. Is your right to owning a gun really worth another person’s life?
Henry Isenberg is a student in Ashley Carruth’s 11th grade humanities class at Animas High School. He is the son of Lisa and Tom Isenberg.