By Noah Lowy
On April 30, 2017, the San Diego community was stunned by a deadly shooting rampage at an apartment complex in the University City area which took the life of one woman and injured seven others. For the citizens of San Diego, the horrors broadcasted in the news every day have now become a reality. The issues surrounding gun control have gone from something San Diegans merely read about, to something they must strongly consider. However, many Americans have experienced gun violence in their own communities. In 2015, there was on average, more than one mass shooting (4 or more wounded/killed) every day in the U.S. That statistic is horrifying, yet no steps are being taken to fix the problem. The lack of action is shocking, and exposes the underlying faults in America’s firearm legislation. In order for any serious change to occur, the government must reconsider the importance of the right to bear arms and must work to better enforce background checks, extend waiting periods, and ban certain firearms.
America consistently places number one in the world in many gun related statistics. The U.S. has the most firearms per capita of any nation, and while America accounts for only 5% of the world’s population, 31% of all mass shootings occur in the U.S. The reason for America’s struggle with gun violence comes down to the accessibility of firearms. America has surprisingly loose gun legislation, making firearms easily accessible to nearly any citizen without a criminal record. Guns are available at chain stores like Walmart, where background checks can take just minutes, and at gun shows where background checks aren’t required. According to the FBI, in 2014, 66% of all regulated gun transactions are approved within minutes, and if a background check isn’t completed within 3 days, the sale is allowed to proceed. Firearm transactions which are unregulated by the government do not require background checks, and they can be easily arranged on a variety of websites which connect buyers and sellers.
Guns are simply too easy to purchase in America, and when background checks are conducted, they are still too lax. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System, while quick, has several major flaws. The database which allows background checks to be conducted in minutes is incomplete and doesn’t account for certain aspects of many gun buyers’ history. For instance, many states do not share mental health records with the NICS, meaning there is the possibility that mentally unstable people could still obtain firearms in those states. There is also the possibility of human error in the checks, as in the case of the Charleston church shooter. He was able to purchase a gun though he had been known to police for illegally possessing the drug Suboxone, which should have barred him from buying a gun. However the police records were not found during his background check, and he was able to purchase a .45 millimeter handgun, which he used to murder 9 innocent people.
Compared to America, other nations with much stricter firearm regulations have seen dramatic declines in mass shootings. President Barack Obama commented on this, saying “At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this kind of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.” For instance, Australia enacted serious gun control legislation in 1996 after a series of horrific mass shootings throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s. The legislation, called the National Firearms Agreement (NFA), is a series of laws coordinating the regulation and banning of certain weapons. The NFA started a gun buyback program which took over 650,000 firearms out of circulation, it tightened background checks and gun licensing processes, increased the waiting period to 28 days, and required owners had a “genuine reason” for owning a gun. Since that legislation passed, Australia has had one mass shooting. One mass shooting over a 20 year period, compared to America’s 136 mass shootings in the first 6 months of 2016 alone. With a difference that drastic not only in the numbers, but in the actual laws, it is apparent that America’s current system isn’t working, and that adopting legislation similar to Australia’s would benefit the country greatly.
The first step towards improving the gun problem in America is to acknowledge that the 2nd Amendment is outdated. The world was vastly different in 1791 than it is today. There was the threat of invasion, and many people on the frontier relied on firearms to defend against attacks from Native Americans and to travel safely through the unsettled country. However, most of this is irrelevant and inapplicable to today’s society. The 2nd Amendment is outdated and must be revised or repealed in order for significant progress to be made.
Many in favor of guns believe that the right to gun ownership is an essential facet of being an American, and that it is a natural right and part of American heritage. It is also believed by the NRA and many supporters of gun laws that background checks are an invasion of privacy. While it is true that the right to own firearms has been embedded in American culture for centuries, it is undeniable that other developed nations with different gun laws and gun culture do not experience the same issues. According to the Lancet journal, implementing universal background checks could decrease gun deaths by 56.9%. It is hard to argue for privacy when countless lives would be saved by thorough background checks, and it is hard to defend a culture that allows thousands to die.
The firearm situation in America is quite concerning, and with the current pro-gun administration, there seems to be no hope of enacting new gun control laws within the next 4 years. With more mass shootings occurring every day, the fact is the situation isn’t getting better. Politicians on both sides of the aisle must realize that the “freedom” to own firearms under the Second Amendment must not be allowed to outweigh the freedom to go to school without worrying about a possible shooting, the freedom to go to a movie theatre, night club, or place of worship without worrying. The fear and the unnecessary bloodshed must end.