America’s Gun Problem

Harrison Rose and Zach Nowlin

Columbine. Newtown. Las Vegas. Parkland. These cities, when combined together, immediately spring to mind the mass shootings that have taken place over the past 20 years.  Such increase in shootings, have instigated the swelling of public sentiment toward creating stricter controls on the purchase and use of automatic weapons in the United States.  But still a strong sentiment remains for independence and support for the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution by a faction of the population. These two arguments have lead to heated debates during the last several weeks which appears to be dividing the nation.

Guns have been a part of our nation since its founding.  Gun rights advocates maintain that the strict interpretation of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution clearly permits the unrestricted use of guns, whether they be shotguns, handguns or military style assault weapons.  These advocates maintain that the Founding Fathers were insistent upon the availability of guns for all as the Second Amendment states that “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.”

Guns have been relatively available with few restrictions in the United States.  While the United States has only 4.4 percent of the world’s population, 30 percent of its population owns a gun. 69 percent do not own any firearms but of that percentage, 36 percent say they could see themselves owning a gun in the future, according to Pew Research. The main demographic that owns at least one gun in the United States are white males with 48 percent. White males in rural areas are 46 percent more likely to own a gun, 27 percent in suburban areas and 19 percent in urban areas.

Many of those in opposition to increasing gun control measures have an intensified fear that such measures will lead to the government confiscating guns from law abiding citizens.  Those states that have commenced measures in the last few years, such as Connecticut, are used as examples where government uses “informed statements” by a concerned citizen of another person’s possibly wishing to harm themselves or others as a justification for entering their home and removing weapons until the Court could decide if they should be returned.  Such regulations are believed to be a slippery slope towards allowing the Government to remove guns for any reason and without review by a Court.

“A ban is unconstitutional. Yes, we do need to regulate, but we must provide hard evidence that someone shows probable cause to do someone harm with a weapon,” said Chris Greene, senior.

Moreover, some fear that the government take the guns citizens already own and place regulations that will prevent law abiding citizens from actually being able to purchase guns.  A phenomenon known as the “backgroup loophole” provides an avenue for individuals to obtain weapons and bypassing the federal regulation requiring background checks on individuals purchasing weapons.  Federal law only requires those licensed retailers from performing a background check on their customers. Unlicensed retailers, which include those selling weapons at gun shows or selling their personal collections, do not have to abide by those restrictions.  Currently, only 19 states have state regulations requiring background check on purchase of guns through a licensed retail dealer while only nine states require universal background checks at the time of sale. Gun proponents maintain that restricting the marketplace for gun sales with increased background checks or extended wait periods for gun purchases will stiffel the ability of individuals to purchase weapons despite their constitutional rights permitting such purchases.

During the last few weeks, many high school students and others have been suggesting stricter restrictions. These suggested restrictions include an age requirement for the purchase of guns to 21 years of age as well as increasing the mental health evaluations or requirements.  Advocates for gun rights claim that these types of increases will only stop law abiding citizens from getting the guns necessary for their own protection. Those that are criminals will continue to obtain the firearms since they do not go through the normal legal routes to get their guns. Some students at Athens have voiced their opinions on gun control.

“I think the only was a significant change will be made is if people vote in this upcoming election. There are so many elected officials that are supported by the NRA and they’re too scared to speak up against gun violence. We need people in positions of power who will be more likely to make schools safer by instituting common sense gun laws,” said Alyssa Wood, senior.

“Guns do not kill people; people kill people.” Gun advocates continue to blast that statement out during every argument that gun control is discussed. Pro-gun advocates argue that the people that are using guns for mass shooting in a manner that is not considered appropriate and thus, we should not stop everyone from being able to obtain and use guns. However, a Lancet study done in 2016 found that implementing a federal universal background check would reduce gun deaths by 56.9 percent, background checks would reduce deaths by 80.7 percent, and gun identification requirements would reduce deaths by 82.5 percent. There is significant evidence to prove that gun control would work, but the main issue is if it is constitutional.

“I don’t know if there are any rights that are absolute.  We have the right to drive our cars, but we can’t drive 100 miles per hour,” said Nicholas Rose, freshman. “I think the government can place restrictions on a person under certain circumstances.”

There are many solutions to the issue of gun violence in America. There are ways to prevent gun violence, but there is a lack of will for politicians to take actions that everyone, both Democrat and Republican, desperately want taken. From reducing easy access to dangerous weapons, to public education, and just as importantly, more investment in mental health.

Many politicians and citizens have suggested the idea of allowing teachers to be armed to prevent student deaths if a gunman comes into a classroom. While this seems like a good idea, many teachers are concerned about having to be responsible for carrying weapons in school. Critics also are concerned that this would bring unforeseen consequences, like in Georgia, when a teacher barricaded himself in his classroom and fired out a window. This occured two weeks after the shooting in Parkland.

The main issue up in Washington is the politicians who believe that the issues of gun control are mutually exclusive, with Democrats believing gun control is the solution and Republicans claiming mental health is what is causing such violence.

“I think a compromise between Democrats and Republicans on gun control is needed,” said Brian Harrington, a Civics and Economics teacher. “Both (focus on gun control and mental health) are needed to curb gun violence both in school and out of school.”