The United States of America is one of the few nations that view owning a gun as a right, rather than a privilege. Our nation was founded on the principles of freedom and democracy, and included is a list of freedoms we as Americans have. The right to own a gun, as well as maintain an army, is outlined in the U.S. Constitution — the document that ensures those freedoms. Under the Second Amendment: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The very nature of the Constitution, written over 232 years ago, leaves us with the question: how well has the Constitution aged?
Many individuals that are for the ownership and possession of guns refer to the Second Amendment as their main defense. However, to refer to this amendment as a testament of American freedom, without acknowledging the culture and era it was founded in, is to be ignorant of the changing conditions of America since 1787.
The Second Amendment is relevant today because of the systemic issue of gun violence, particularly in America. In the past few years guns and gun violence, especially mass shootings, have dominated news headlines. While there is not a set definition for “mass shooting,” most organizations have agreed that an event in which four or more individuals are killed, excluding the shooter, in one location at one event.
With a total of 372 mass shootings in the United States this year as of Nov. 20, it may feel like mass shootings make up the majority of gun violence in America. However, many statistics show that mass shootings only account for a small percentage of gun violence in America. Of course, news coverage can frame American’s views of guns and sensationalize these tragedies.
That is not to say that these mass shootings are not the horrific, tragic events that they are; one life lost is too many. But this led The Griffin to wonder, why is this an American problem? We can’t be the only country with these issues, right?
Perhaps, the answer may lie in the numbers; According to the Census Bureau, America has a population of 330,026,232 and according to the Washington Post there are a total of 393 million civilian owned guns — that is roughly one gun per person in the United States. Compared to the rest of the world, Yemen has about one gun for every two people, Britain has about one gun for every 20 people, and Japan has one gun for every 334 people.
We can’t definitively say that there is a direct correlation between availability and accessibility to guns and the number of mass shootings that occur, but it is worth considering.
It is unfortunate that lives have to be destroyed for the government to change laws, if they do. The band-aid the government has been using is giving their “thoughts and prayers” to the victims of these horrific events. Thoughts and prayers, originally a heartwarming sentiment, has become an ironic and offensive phrase that really means “We’re sorry this happened, and that our policies are so inadequate that we got caught.”
British journalist Dan Hodges posted on Twitter in 2015, referencing the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in 2012 with 26 deaths, saying that “Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.”
According to the NRA, most states either do not require a permit or they provide the government with some discretion over the issue of a permit, but will usually grant permits to all law-abiding people. Most states do not require a permit to purchase firearms, a registration of firearms, and a licensing of owners. Rifles, shotguns, and handguns usually at minimum require a permit to carry, but not always.
Other countries have experienced similar mass shootings, but the difference is that they have acted on them. Australia, Japan, England, and Germany all learned from the mistake of having loose gun laws, and tightened them. In Australia’s case, according to The Guardian, they proposed that each state and territory create and enforce a “firearm licensing and registration system” requiring people to have a “genuine reason” for having a firearm, like hunting, sport and target shooting, etc. Since then, there have been no mass shootings in the 20 years after the Port Arthur Australia shooting in 1996.
After the recent shooting in Santa Clarita, California on Nov. 14 at Saugus High School, the majority of us at The Griffin think it’s time for stricter gun regulation. We acknowledge that many individuals responsibly use guns, but for those that do not, we urge for stronger background checks, mental health screenings, and waiting periods. Your right to own a gun does not outweigh someone’s right to live.