The Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon en- dured a massive tragedy on Oct. 1 when a shooter took the lives of nine people. President Barack Obama then took the lectern to yet again address the nation, expressing his frustration towards this all too common occurrence in America. At this point this has be- come routine and, as is tradition, a national debate on gun control soon followed. In the past critics of gun control respond with fears of the government infringing on their second amendment. The debate then stalls, and nothing changes.
Why is it that after so much mourning and outrage the issue fades away and becomes a polit- ical footnote? It seems as though political opponents of gun control are content with seeing firearm homicides as an occupational hazard of being an American student. They’re convinced that there are no meaningful steps to take to control gun violence. They see this debate as liberal fear mongering to attack the second amendment rights and demonize gun owners. Is there any legitimacy in their narrative?
First, let’s step back and clear up an earlier statement. Oppo- nents of gun control actually do believe in one kind of action to combat gun violence. Very often they endorse the idea of investing in treating mental illness. However, this will effect gun violence very little. People with mental health illnesses are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators. While up to sixty percent of mass shooters have some kind of psychiatric or psychological symptoms there are factors to better predict gun violence: substance abuse, poverty, history of violence, and most notably access to guns. Whether they’re convinced mental health is a serious factor in gun violence or see it as convenient scapegoat, either is wrong.
Another popular argument is that less shootings would occur if more people were armed. Accord-ing to most studies this would have the complete opposite effect. A study by the Harvard School of Public Health‘s Injury Control Research Center found that places with more guns have more gun deaths. This conclusion was found even after controlling for variables such as socioeconomic factors and other crimes. This is the consequence of America’s relaxed culture on firearms: making guns more accessible and leading to more deaths. Evidence like this suggest that the most effective way to solve America’s problem of gun violence is to make guns less accessible.
The strange thing is that most Americans actually favor what is commonly referred to as “common-sense gun laws.” According to the Pew Research Center most in the US support background checks, a ban on semi-automatic weapons, a ban on assault-style weapons, and a federal database to track gun sales. Most Americans see these as reasonable measures to prevent gun violence. Even with these laws in place the US would still have the most re- laxed gun laws of any developed nation. It doesn’t make sense that these aren’t passed into law yet but there are two reasons for that.
The first is the NRA. While not initially a serious political force, the National Rifle Association has an enormous stranglehold on conservative politics. They are aware of all of the facts stated above but they seem more concerned with big government that student death. The NRA’s big fear is that any gun control is the start to a slippery slope towards massive government oversight.
While the gun lobby has sway over many politicians it’s the voters who put those representative into office that are another huge issue. A lot of people don’t feel it’s fair that they should be punished for the few bad apples that misuse their second amendment rights. Admittedly, by some degree, this is a fair argument. It’s not fair for law abiding citizens to be punished. Although if we’re being completely honest, citizens are already being punished by those abusing the second amendment. According to shootingtracker.com, a website chronicling every known mass shooting in the US, since 2012 there have been over 900 mass shootings. That almost one every day. How much do you really love your fellow citizens and their rights if you’re letting them get slaughtered nearly every day because you want access to an assault rifle? What about their right to life and the pursuit of happiness? Do those not matter as much?
The presidential election is approaching, and by some degree your vote could determine your survival. Don’t settle for candidates who can be persuaded by gun lobbyist money. While the rate of mass shootings are lessening year after year, we as students need to take steps to ensure that our campus is safe, and advocating for gun control is the most effective way to do that. An educational institution should be a safe place for students to grow and learn, though every month one becomes a hunting ground for an angry gunman. This is not a fact anyone should be comfortable with. We are America’s future and we deserve better.