America’s Own Epidemic: Gun Violence
How about the children in schools who now have to live in fear after the tragedies of Sandy Hook Elementary, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and Sante Fe High School? Innocent children with bright futures ahead of them murdered in cold blood because their killer had obtained a weapon illegally, or lacked proper counseling due to a mental condition.
The Center for American Progress says that in the United States, a person is shot by a firearm roughly every 15 minutes. While many of the injuries and deaths that contribute to that statistic come from mass shootings like the ones mentioned above, 60% of them come from suicides, according to Everytown.
These gruesome situations are the result of poorly written legislation in a variety of areas, as well as the tight grip of the gun lobby on our nation’s politicians. Steps must be taken to end this terrible crisis that has plagued our nation for decades.
The first rational step to take is to institute background checks for every single gun buyer at every single gun sale, as well as make sure that every seller is federally licensed. Since 1994, federal background checks at gun sales have stopped over 3 million people from getting a gun. Unfortunately, these checks are not universal, and unlicensed owners at gun shows, online platforms, and pawn shops take advantage of this, selling firearms to minors and potential felons without any second thoughts. That is terrifying and unacceptable.
One Google Search from me yielded numerous results for websites with sellers eager to get guns off their hands. I am willing to bet that a significant number of them would sell me a weapon instantly without asking anything of my past background. This needs to stop.
If background checks were made universal, many lives would have the potential to be saved. In fact, the implementation of just this one provision would likely pass very quickly. According to a Quinnipiac University poll, 90% of surveyed gun owners support universal background checks and licensing.
Why? Because it is common sense. Dangerous people should not have access to guns, and it is only those individuals who understand the responsibility of wielding such a weapon that should be allowed to use them.
The United States can learn a lot about curbing gun violence from a country like Japan, whose pacifist values have governed its domestic and international politics since World War II. At a minimum, gun owners in Japan must attend a class, pass a written test, get a mental health screening, and receive a background check. The class and written test must be retaken every three years for owners to continue to use their firearms. Imagine how many more lives could be saved if the United States enacted policies similar to these in addition to universal screenings.
In addition to keeping guns out of the hands of people who seek to do harm to others, we must especially focus on those who wish to harm themselves. The suicide rate in the United States compared to other developed nations is roughly 10 times higher. Furthermore, having access to a gun triples the risk of suicide, thus emphasizing the importance of helping people who are at risk by keeping guns out of their hands.
Investing in mental health services, screenings, and raising the age of gun ownership to 21 and above can do a lot to decrease this often-overlooked statistic of gun violence.
The gun violence crisis is the symptom of a terrible disease that is the current system which exists today. Loopholes and vague legislation have to be rewritten and properly enforced to bring down the death count. To ensure a safe America for all of its citizens, it is imperative that those who are at risk do not have the means to put others in harm’s way. Only then will America have recovered from this illness that is the gun violence epidemic.