“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.”
The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
As a nation, we weep with the tragic massacre of fifty-eight lives and the injury of 527 people in the worst mass gun killing in the history of the United States in Las Vegas, Nevada. Again our collective conscience screams why? Our angry voices demand congressional action. Rational minds wonder how a man can purchase several semiautomatic rifles without raising red flags. Is the Las Vegas shooting the tipping point needed to change gun control laws in America? In the last decade, more than 100,000 people have been slaughtered in gun violence. Besides mass killings, millions of Americans are victims of various gun assaults—domestic violence, robberies, drive-by shootings, and more. Not to mention injuries inflicted by children accidentally acquiring their parent’s firearms.
In recent years we’ve seen a systemic sickness that so disturbing it’s become a part of our history—mentally ill citizens premeditating murder of innocent people before taking their own lives. Many believed Sandy Hook was the tipping point when a deranged man took innocent children’s lives in a place that should be a haven away from home. But it wasn’t. Instead, senseless gun violence has increased as the small selection from substantial shootings details below.
- October 1, 2017: Fifty-nine killed and 527 injured at a concert in Las Vegas, Nevada
- June 5, 2017: Five employees killed as Fiamma, Inc. in Orange County, Florida
- January 6, 2017: Five killed and six injured at Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport
- June 12, 2016: Forty-nine killed and 58 injured at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida
- June 18, 2015: Nine killed at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina
- December 14, 2012: Twenty-seven killed and one injured at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut
- July 20, 2012: Twelve killed, 58 injured inside a theater during the movie The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado
- April 20, 1999: Thirteen killed and 24 injured at Columbine High School in Colorado by two students carrying high-powered weapons
Of all the developed nations, America has the most gun violence, and research has shown this is because the U.S. has more guns than other developed countries. Where there are more guns, there will be more deaths. A clear-cut solution would be to limit gun access with stricter gun laws. But I’m sure many would claim it’s their constitutional right as stated in the Second Amendment to keep and bear firearms for protection. Though the Second Amendment allows citizen’s rights to acquire guns, it doesn’t provide a uniform set of rules across America. However, gun control is under the jurisdiction of individual states, and state-by-state regulation has created a complex, inconsistent system in obtaining permits, licenses, and registration. Wouldn’t it be wiser maintaining one uniform Federal law?
With epidemic mass killings, why hasn’t Congress raised its mighty arm and passed stricter gun laws? Since Republicans took the majority in the House in 2011, little has been done. One would assume Republican’s intransigence stems from fear of losing political support from powerful gun lobbyist in Washington—the National Rifle Associations (NRA). Fearing any attempt for stricter gun laws may lead to political suicide, less backing for their political campaign. With ever-increasing gun violence, public outcry has escalated for tighter gun control. After the Las Vegas massacre, even the NRA is demanding stringent laws on bump-stocks, a rapid-fire device used by the gunman in Las Vegas. However, limiting these devices is only a fraction of a bigger social problem.
I’ve pondered the time it takes to purchase and receive a gun. Without federal waiting or cooling-off periods, a dealer can deliver firearms to a buyer after a mandatory background check—felony convictions, active warrants, no-fly list, and domestic-violence injunctions—has cleared. This process takes no longer than twenty-four hours, and in some states, a buyer can receive their gun in three business days. That’s less time than it takes to get a passport, drivers or marriage license. What does this say about a country where buying a gun is easier than getting an abortion? There needs to be an extensive waiting period, allowing for detail background and mental health checks, and a mandatory cooling-off period which may reduce impulsive acts of violence and suicide rates. The American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) performed research which showed firearm suicides was 51% less and overall suicides 21% less in states with longer waiting periods.
Weapons are not the problem but the person firing the gun. A thorough mental-health check and preventive measures can ensure guns aren’t placed in the wrong hands. Now, more than ever, we need sensible government intervention and an enforcement of best practices, such as the ones below, to prevent horrific violence from recurring.
- A ban on assault-style rifle equipped with high-capacity magazines
- Expand the 24-hour gun background check and make it universal
- Create sustained outreach programs for people identified as ‘at risk.’ Accessible long-term mental health treatment, not a one-time program may reduce suicidal tendencies. Without immediate access to guns and better access to professional counseling, people with transient, rash suicidal tendencies may reconsider their actions the longer the wait time.
A ban on assault-style rifles, longer waiting and cooling-off periods, and identifying ‘at risk’ citizens, doesn’t guarantee what occurred in Las Vegas won’t happen again. But destigmatizing shame associated with mental illness and creating a culture of caring through sustainable, long-term mental health programs may save many lives in the future. As has been the case after major gun violence such as Sandy Hook, we are silent, and numb with anger for a while until the next massacre outrages us again. I’m sure if we gather in masses as many did after the 2016 election, our unified voice will herald disdain for lax government gun laws. We can no longer tolerate a culture of gun violence. Change is long overdue, and it will only happen with a LOUD! expression of disapproval.