Unsigned: Yes… People Do Kill People, But So Do Guns

   There have been more shootings in the United States as of May 7 in 2023 than in any previous year since at least 2013, according to CNN (cnn.com). In honor of the 19 children and two teachers who lost their lives just over a year ago at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, we must confront the issue of gun violence in the United States and have conversations about how we, as a country, want to stop it. No matter the political party or ideology, nobody wants senseless violence. Although the debate over gun control can often become quite polarizing, there is still common ground that can be used to make progress. 

   By the count of the Gun Violence Archive, a not-for-profit online database, there have been 52 mass shootings in the past month in 22 different states, including six in California, with 58 people in total losing their lives. This alarming number indicates a rapid trend in the rise of gun violence in this country. In the past eight years, the annual number of mass shootings has sharply increased from 383 in 2016 to 646 in 2022 (gunviolencearchive.org). This pattern threatens the livelihoods of every single person in this country —  regardless of whether or not one owns a gun. Mass shootings are occurring in schools, churches, residential areas, and other general public places where one shouldn’t have to fear for their lives. Senior Tristan Blennerhassett shared his thoughts: “I hear lots of news about gun violence…. The sad part is that it is always centered around this country.” Indeed, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the United States towers over other high-income countries in terms of gun-related homicides, in some cases by a factor of 100-200 (healthdata.org). 

   The frequency of civilian gun ownership in the United States is significantly higher than in all other countries. According to World Population Review, the U.S. stands tall above the rest of the planet with approximately 120 guns per 100 people. This is almost double the numbers ranked second and third, and more than triple for the remaining top ten spots (worldpopulationreview.com). An investigation by CNN showed that this contrast between the U.S. and the rest of the world is reflected in school shootings. Some say, “guns don’t kill people, people do,” but there are people in the United Kingdom, and while between 2009 and 2018 they experienced zero school shootings, the United States had 288. That is 57 times more than the number that Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and Italy experienced combined (cnn.com). Either there is something very wrong with our people, or something very wrong with our policies. Blennerhassett went on, “[The prevalence of guns in the United States] has made me extremely careful about how I interact with people, because I do fear that if I make a mistake around the wrong person, it could very well lead to me getting shot.”

   In the debate over gun control, it is often the case that the right to own or carry a firearm is placed on a high pedestal as “fundamental.” This would make sense, as this sentiment has been a large part of American history. Most notably, the right to “bear arms” is stated in the second amendment of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights. John Locke is often quoted as arguing that when an aggressor allows no time to appeal properly to the system of justice, or when there is great political turmoil, the right to bear arms is necessary and must be protected. These views of gun ownership are severely outdated. The founding fathers may have found it necessary that gun ownership be a protected right, but times have changed considerably. Gun ownership in this country is clearly not contributing to the public good. The fight against gun control is a selfish one, one that kills hundreds of innocent people every year.  

   We have a long way to go as a country. America is growing tired of fearing gun violence in the streets and at school. In June of last year, President Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act which, among other things, expanded background checks for potential gun owners and cracked down on gun trafficking as well as straw purchasing, which is when someone legally buys a firearm for someone who could not purchase one legally themselves (senate.gov). Expanding background checks is one of the simplest and least intrusive ways to expand gun control. The act being bipartisan suggests that there is progress being made in coming to a consensus between both political parties about greater gun control. This is a heartening example of how real progress is being made towards greater safety against gun violence. It furthers the hope that one day, people will realize that the heart of the U.S. gun violence problem is, in fact, guns.