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It’s Time to Talk About Gun Control

Taylor Talcott, Staff Writer

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It is time to talk about gun control. The United States has roughly 370 mass shootings annually, meaning that there are more shootings every year than there are days. As we find ourselves, yet again, in the wake of a mass shooting, it’s time to set aside useless political rhetoric and have a candid conversation about gun control. On October 1st of this year, Stephen Paddock injured over 500 people and killed 58 in the span of 15 minutes at a Las Vegas concert. There was an additional cache of 23 guns in his hotel room, and records show that within a month, Paddock legally bought around 30 guns at various locations. This is an utterly devastating atrocity, and one would hope that it will never happen again. But it will. Soon enough, it will no longer be the largest mass shooting in modern American history. This is exactly why it’s time to talk

Automatic weapons and assault rifles are made to kill in large quantities. They’re not for hunting, nor are they for self-defense. They are military-grade, and there is a very good reason that they were banned in 1986. The most popular firearm in America, the AR-15, falls under the semi-automatic category and is completely legal. Semi-automatic firearms are also shooters’ weapons of choice with the majority of mass shootings using semi-automatic firearms. This is often because, for about 100 dollars, a bump stock can be purchased. A bump stock allows a semi-automatic firearm to be outfitted to automatic capabilities in all but name, and it is completely legal. A bump stock, which was found on 12 of Stephen Paddock’s firearms, allows a dangerous weapon to be transformed into a rapid killing machine. There is no reason for a civilian to have a gun with the capabilities of an automatic weapon. There’s absolutely no conceivable situation in which the presence of burglar or a deer necessitates 100 rounds being rapidly shot. Semi-automatics, even those further outfitted with bump stocks, are by technical definition, not assault rifles. However, the technical definition starts to lose meaning when 58 people lose their lives and hundreds more are injured in a matter of minutes. There will always be murderers in our country, but there is no need to make mass casualties so much easier.

680 Americans are annually shot and killed due to accidental discharge of firearms. The United States makes up 5% of the world population, yet it possesses around 50% of the world’s firearms and 31% of mass shooters. US gun culture is so drastically different and more prevalent than other nations’, and the national statistics reflect it. Why is it that ⅔ of gun owners cite protection as their primary reason for owning it, but less than 5% of burglaries are committed by violent strangers while the homeowners are present? Gun-owners’ definition of self-protection better translates to “peace-of-mind.” No matter how many one has, where they’re stored, or how familiar one is with them, having a gun, as reported by the New England Journal of Medicine, makes one 43 times likelier to shoot a family member than anyone else. It is very unlikely for a violent burglary to occur while one is home, and it is even more unlikely that a gun will harm the criminal. Self-protection no longer becomes a viable defense considering the risk of just owning, let alone discharging, a firearm. Children living in the US are 11 times more likely to die from an accidental gunshot than in any other country, and about 27% of accidental gun deaths are persons under 17. Owning a gun might make one feel safe, but in reality, it is quite hazardous.

The topic of gun control is loaded with a surplus of contradictory information and contentious claims on either side. One of the more popular arguments is that gun control laws will have a marked effect on crime rates. The conservatives claim that gun control only serves to take weapons from the law-abiding citizens and allow the criminals free reign, and the liberals cite countries with strict gun control and low gun-violence rates such as Australia and Finland. While it is true that many countries with low crime rates have strict gun regulation, there are some countries with strict gun control and higher crime rates such as Canada and Ireland. Gun control often correlates with crime rates, but it cannot be determined as a beneficial or detrimental cause without further evidence. This evidence does not speak to the ineffectiveness of gun control; it simply brings to light that there are many more cultural factors at play when crime rates are involved.

However, gun deaths, rather than crime, are in direct relation with gun control. 36,000 Americans are fatally shot each year, 44% of them homicide and 51% suicide. Mass shootings in such a heavy concentration are fairly unique to the United States, and such statistics could very likely be lowered with regulation on semi-automatic rifles and their additions, such as bump stocks. The Las Vegas shooting was carried out with legal guns, and many other mass shootings, such as Columbine, are orchestrated by guns that may be illegally possessed but are purchased through legal pathways. Additionally, over 50% of suicide attempts are carried out by way of firearms. 1 in 25 suicide attempts are successful, but the use of firearms gives over a 90% death rate. Suicide is overwhelmingly the result of a mental illness, but it is often described as an impulse decision, one that many often regret. However, guns don’t leave much room for a second chance. With 51% of all gun deaths being attributed to suicide, it is imperative to consider and discuss the implication of gun control on suicide death rates. Gun control cannot be perfect, but it can do a lot of good, and it needs to be discussed seriously.

Gun control has a lot of policy issues, and every time there is a mass shooting, they are reopened for debate. However, there has failed to be a successful policy change yet. Gun control is purely political and it has been for some time and likely will be forever, but if we ever want a chance at lowering our body count, we need to keep the victims in mind, be it accidental, suicidal, or homicidal. Gun violence is an issue in the United States, and nothing has been done to change this. Let it be known: we will have another mass shooting, and another, and another. We have them every day, and they’ve become so commonplace, that the majority are dismissed as normal. It’s not normal, and we will have a mass shooting just as devastating as Las Vegas. It’s just a matter of when. Yes, we must grieve for those who died and for those who have lost loved ones, but we must also act. We need to change our policies in such a way that we alter our toxic gun culture. The burden of change is not on the perpetrators; it is on us, the civilians and especially the lawmakers, to make sure that we stop the pattern of mass shootings within our own country.

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It’s Time to Talk About Gun Control