I went to a family Hanukkah party this weekend and had a blast. One of my cousins is 16 and the party was at his home. He had a couple of friends over, who were super cool, nice guys.
At one point, I found myself hanging out with the 16-year-olds (perhaps showing my mental age, ha!), just chatting about picking colleges, careers, what being a writer is all about, and one of them got an alert on his phone.
He looked at it and politely said, “Hey, is anyone taking the train home tonight?”
The alert was that shots had been fired at a nearby train station, and he wanted to let people know what was going on.
I asked him what the app was. He said it was a radar scanner app that monitors the local area.
He said he has it because of school shootings and just wanted to make sure he knew what was happening and wanted to be safe, and wanted to be able to let other people know so they could stay safe, too.
Think about that for a second.
A kid feels the need to monitor the local police band so that he could avoid shootings.
With the proliferation of shootings happening in the U.S., he wants to be safe.
And the United States government isn’t doing anything to help. The people in power would rather hoard power and NRA money than help the citizens of this country stay safe — and alive.
On December 1, 2019, CBS News published an article titled “There have been more mass shootings than days this year.” The article states, “The number of mass shootings across the U.S. thus far in 2019 has outpaced the number of days this year, according to a gun violence research group. Before this year has even ended, 2019 has already had more mass shootings than any year since the research group started keeping track.”
As of December 1, 2019, there have been 385 mass shootings in the U.S., 29 of which were mass murders.
And how freaking terrifying is that?
Back in 2015, the Wall Street Journal published an article titled “U.S. Leads World in Mass Shootings,” which states that “The U.S. ranks first in gun ownership per capita, with roughly 270 million firearms, or 89 firearms per 100 residents, according to the Small Arms Survey 2011, a Geneva-based research project that collects information on small arms.” With Yemen and Switzerland coming in second and third with 55 per 100 and 46 per 100, respectively.
One important line in that article reads, “The U.S. represents less than 5% of the 7.3 billion global population but accounted for 31% of global mass shooters during the period from 1966 to 2012.”
“Mass shootings” are defined as “ incidents involving multiple victims of firearm-related violence.”
Nonprofit organization Gun Violence Archive (the GVA) tracks every mass shooting in this country. They specifically define a mass shooting as “firearm violence resulting in at least four people being shot at roughly the same time and location, excluding the perpetrator.”
What is being done about it?
In an article on August 5, 2019, by Emily Tillett for CBS News, “In 2019 alone, there have been over 33,000 incidents of violent acts committed with guns, according to the Gun Violence Archive (GVA) — a staggering statistic that shocks Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike. But so far, they have not been able to agree on what would constitute meaningful gun safety protections.”
Many things have been brought to the table to try to legislate guns in one way or another, and Business Insider ran an article on August 5, 2019, after the shootings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas about 10 strategies to stop shootings in America and the likelihood of them working. It touches on the proposed assault weapons ban, a high-capacity magazine ban, universal background checks, “red flag” laws, and several others. Those 4 specifically were listed as “likely” to work.
“Red flag” laws, also known as Extreme Risk protection orders, allow courts to issue orders to confiscate guns from people who are deemed a risk to themselves or others, are there are 14 states now with implemented red flag laws, with more than 24 others considering similar measures.
The 1994 Assault Weapons Ban expired in 2004. AR-15s, a very popular rifle adapted by the U.S. military to become the M-16, is a semi-automatic rifle that shoots small-caliber bullets at a higher velocity than handguns. AR-15s were used in the San Bernardino, Sandy Hook, and Aurora shootings, and some local retailers have stopped selling them, but Congress has NOT renewed the 1994 ban.
Democrats have tried to expand the background check system to private sales and lengthen the time to 10 days, which was approved in February but the Senate has not passed it. And the President has threatened to veto it.
Everytown For Gun Safety is a nonprofit advocating for gun control founded by Michael Bloomberg in 2006, and their website lists a plan for keeping schools sage and ending gun violence in American schools. You can read it here.
They state several specific steps and a plan to help end gun violence and also make note of why arming teachers and having MORE guns in schools is a terrible idea.
Why don’t we have better gun control laws?
In early 2019, literally six days after the attack in Christchurch, New Zealand on a mosque, the NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a country-wide ban on military-style semi-automatic weapons.
So, why can’t we do that, too?
There are many reasons. BBC News stated the 5 big obstacles standing in the way. They are:
- The NRA. The National Rifle Association is “one of the most influential interest groups in US politics… In 2016 the NRA spent $4m on lobbying and direct contributions to politicians as well as more than $50m on political advocacy, including an estimated $30m to help elect Donald Trump [as] president.”
- Gerrymandering. “Due to the way the lines of House congressional districts are drawn, many by Republican-controlled state legislatures, there are more seats that tilt to the right than the left.”
- Filibustering. “The rules of the Senate can also thwart efforts to enact more stringent firearm regulation, thanks to the filibuster.” … “In 2013, following the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting, it appeared that efforts to strengthen gun-purchase background checks had significant bipartisan support in the Senate. After a concerted lobbying effort by the NRA, however, the bill received only 56 votes in favour, four short of the mark necessary to break the filibuster.”
- Courts. “In recent years, the Supreme Court has twice ruled that the right to own personal weapons such as handguns is enshrined in the constitution.”
- The Enthusiasm Gap. “Perhaps the single biggest obstacle to new gun-control laws at the national level is that opponents tend to hold fiercely to their beliefs, while support for new regulation tends to ebb and flow around each new instance of violence. The NRA’s strategy, and that of pro-gun politicians, is to wait out the storm — to delay legislative efforts until attention turns elsewhere and the outcry fades.”
It’s horrifying how many people in the U.S. are injured or die every year from gun violence. While individual homicide rates are down, mass shootings are way up, and it is scary for people who live in the country.
What’s the answer?
I don’t know. I do believe we should have an assault weapons ban and that universal background checks would help, and there is data to back that up, but I have no idea why our country’s leaders would prefer to send “thoughts and prayers” versus actually enacting the change they were elected to enact. To strive for the safety of their constituents and citizens of this country over hoarding power.
Absolute power corrupts absolutely. But every day, the people of this country are dying and the only definitive thing I know is that the leaders of this country — a world superpower — are not doing enough to stop it.
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