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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

When Will It End?

US Mass Shootings

On October 1, 2015, 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer opened fire on his classmates at Umpqua Community College in Roseberg, Oregon, killing nine and injuring seven others. I wish that I could say that this deliberate act of violence came as a shock to our nation, but unfortunately, I can’t. The truth is that mass shootings have become such a frequent occupier of our headlines that we have become desensitized to their subsequent news. Enough is enough. When the systematic execution of innocent Americans becomes the norm rather than the exception, the enforcement of stringent gun control laws becomes not only necessary, but imperative.

Over the years, the gun control issue has elicited much debate among the American public for both opponents and supporters alike. Within the last year, in the wake of a disturbingly considerable spike in the number of mass shootings, that debate has reached a historical climax. There are still many opponents of the implementation of stricter gun laws, but their argument in favor of “the right to keep and bear arms,” at this point, is weak at best. One only has to look at the staggering statistics to grasp the severity of a problem that has essentially created a national climate of fear and frustration. At the root of the problem, ineffective gun laws remain firmly in place.

The number of mass shootings (in which four or more individuals were injured or killed by gun) in 2015 alone adds up to an astonishing 294 within the last nine months(http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/statistics-surrounding-gun-violence-the-us). This is beyond unacceptable: this is horrifying. In response to this widespread violence, the question has become not a matter of if, but when, this will occur next. That, in itself, cries for immediate action.

The famous argument for pro-gun enthusiasts is that such laws restricting the access and sale of firearms is a direct infringement on their civil liberties, namely their Second Amendment right “to keep and bear arms.” I find this argument completely insubstantial and quite frankly illogical. Owning a gun for “self-defense” (and I use that term lightly) or for just the sake of owning a gun because it’s entrusted under an outdated law that is over 200 years old, does not take precedence over the general safety and well being of the American public. To that I can already hear the fiery protests proclaiming that the reason so many want to maintain that constitutional “right to keep and bear arms,” is in order to possess a sufficient mode of self-defense in the face of an immediate crisis. Yet, according to the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, firearms are used far more often to threaten or coerce a person than for use in self-defense. Additionally, guns in the home are used more often to threaten or coerce a loved one than for self-defense (Harvard Injury Control Research Center: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/hicrc/firearms-research/gun-threats-and-self-defense-gun-use-2). To put those claims in perspective with numbers, consider the following statistic: “In 2010, according to the most recent data on justifiable homicides from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program, there were 230 justifiable homicides involving a private citizen using a firearm in self-defense during either an attempted or a completed crime. In the same year, there were 8,275 firearm homicides. This means that, for every one justifiable firearm homicide, there were 36 criminal homicides” (http://www.armedwithreason.com/less-guns-less-crime-debunking-the-self-defense-myth/).

Upon addressing the nation in the aftermath of the Umpqua Community College shooting, a visibly angry Obama reiterated the national urgency of adopting proactive legislation in favor of gun control by drawing upon the examples of Australia and Britain, who, in the wake of horrific mass shootings, took the initiative to strap down on gun laws: “We know that other countries, in response to one mass shooting, have been able to craft laws that almost eliminate mass shootings. Friends of ours, allies of ours – Great Britain, Australia, countries like ours. So we know there are ways to prevent it” (http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/10/how-australia-and-britain-tackled-gun-violence.html). Australia is just one great example of the success effects of nationally imposed gun laws. In 1996, a mass shooting in Port Arthur, Tasmania left 35 dead and 23 wounded. A tragedy that sent shockwaves through the country became the catalyst for major change. Within only twelve days of the tragedy, the Australian government passed the National Firearms Agreement and Buyback program; this put a ban on most types of semi-automatic rifles, self-loading rifles, and shotguns, implemented stricter enforcement of permit distribution, which required a separate permit for each gun in addition to a 28-day waiting period, and demanded a legitimate reason for owning a gun in which self-defense was not a viable purpose (http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/10/how-australia-and-britain-tackled-gun-violence.html). And guess what? In the last 19 years since the guns laws were passed, there has not been a single mass shooting in the country. In addition, gun related homicide decreased by 59 percent between 1995 and 2006, as well as a 65 percent decline in gun related suicides (http://www.slate.com/blogs/crime/2012/12/16/gun_control_after_connecticut_shooting_could_australia_s_laws_provide_a.h)tml) Not one mass shooting in almost 20 years. Now compare that to the 294 mass shootings we’ve had this year alone in the United States. And gun control is supposed a bad idea?

Until we take decisive political action against this rampant violence it will only escalate. I believe that it is our duty to take any necessary action to protect and preserve the lives of our fellow countrymen, and by advocating for gun control, we are doing so. It is time to act on the example of our allies, such as Australia, and finally restore some sense of that peace of mind that has been so abruptly stripped from us in recent times. It’s time to take a stand, America.