WE THINK (12/14/18)

     All too many people prefer to ignore the serious issues when the holiday season comes around. For the most part, they are able to, with most of the topics that are mainstays in our news cycles fading away when we enjoy the holidays with our families. One issue that cannot seem to fade away though, no matter how far we try to push it of our minds, is gun control. The reason why gun control cannot seem to leave the American conscience is because the argument for gun control is growing stronger and stronger.

      This past November alone, 55 people died in mass shooting events. These events, which are much smaller, usually only account for two or three people dead, with more injured. However, major mass shootings, such as the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016, which killed 49 people, or the Parkland school shooting on February 14, 2018, which ended in 17 deaths, still contribute to this number and are way too common to be able to sit idly. According to Vox on Dec. 3, small or big, there have been 1,913 mass shootings since the mass shooting in Sandy Hook on Dec. 14, 2012.

      As a country, we have some of the most lax gun laws in the world. We make up only five percent of the world’s population, yet control forty-five percent of the world’s privately owned firearms. Out of the 251,000 gun deaths per year, six individual countries, including ours, make up 50.5 percent of the violence, with the United States accounting for a hefty 14.8 percent. The other five countries, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Guatemala and Mexico, have recently had weak governments and economies that let cartel and gang behavior flourish. The United States is the strongest economy in the world and suffers less severe gang behavior than the other countries on the list. So, why are we on it? One of the reasons that we account for so much of the world’s gun deaths is due to our population size, but compare our rate to the rate of a similar country and the math just does not add up. Our rate of 10.6 gun deaths per 100,000 people is astronomical compared to Canada’s 2.1, Germany’s .9 or Japan’s 0.2.

      There is a problem with this. We recognize it. Yet, we do not do anything about it. As former President Barack Obama said at the memorial for Sandy Hook in 2012, “We cannot tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change.” That statement, especially on  the sixth anniversary of Sandy Hook, is still as true now as it was then. As a nation, we have done little to none in the face of constant tragedy besides console victims. These victims would rather be the last victims instead of the continuation of a deadly, unnecessary trend.

      Another hard truth to face is that tragedies have been happening more frequently and with greater death tolls as the monsters that perpetrate them feel emboldened by a lack of accountability. The deadliest mass shooting in our history, the Las Vegas massacre, happened on October 2017, with 58 dead and over 400 injured. The second most deadly shooting, the Pulse nightclub massacre, happened little over a year earlier in June 2016, killing 49 people. In addition to it being the six-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting, it is also the ten month anniversary of Parkland, which happened on Feb. 14, when a former student shot and killed 17 people.

      The call to act has been ringing for six years now, and we owe it to the victims to respond.

      We can look to other nations similar to ours for solutions. Australia, after a terrible massacre in 1996 where thirty-five people were killed and twenty-three left injured, acted to try and prevent tragedy from happening again. The government banned the ownership of certain firearms like semi-automatic rifles and shotguns within two weeks of the shooting. They also instituted a mandatory buyback program, where the Australian government bought back banned firearms from people who owned them under legal threat. After these quick measures, Australia went from having 11 mass shootings within 10 years of the 1996 massacre to just one in 2014 with a family of five falling victim to murder-suicide. This is a sharp decrease in a country which was headed down a similar path to the United States. As a country that has had over a thousand mass shootings since 2012 that have ranged from huge losses of life like Australia’s 1996 shooting to the smaller ones like Australia’s 2014 mass shooting, we need to get on board quickly. According to Quartz, Americans privately own 89 to 100 guns per 100 people, the highest in the world. It is no coincidence that we also have the highest share of mass shooters in the world.

      Australia, a little over two decades ago, said enough is enough. They greatly reduced the amount of tragedies that they have to face as a country by using gun control. Did it come at a cost of the personal initiative to own certain types of guns? Did it come at a cost of a person’s right to “bear arms?” Definitely, but Australia saved having to go through constant, devastating tragedies like the United States has. They knew what was more important. It is time to go back to that call from former President Barack Obama to change. It is time to honor the victims of Sandy Hook as it passes its six year anniversary. In the nine months since Parkland, we have done nothing yet again. We must honor them as well. Time is up to pray for it to stop. We have to make it stop; we must force our legislators to listen to our call for gun control. The time is now.