Violence is all over American media. Whether you find it in newspapers, online articles, or even Television shows, it is basically inescapable. And yet nobody expects to become a victim to the rising violence we face. Gun violence in America is a big problem, a problem which several citizens like to believe is irreparable or even irrelevant if it does not affect themselves. Data collected by Simon Rogers for The Guardian from the UN showed that in 2012, America had 6 times as many deaths to firearms as Canada, and nearly 16 times as many as Germany. He also found that we had nearly 30 firearm homicides per million people that year (Rogers). [¹]
Since the shooting of Sandy Hook Elementary School there have been 1,999 mass shootings in America.[²]We also have a ridiculous amount of guns. With only 4.4% of the world’s population, America owns almost 50% of the worlds artillery.[³] It is easy to see that by having so many weapons, it invites violent crime nationally.
The solutions to this problem are seemingly simple. First, a ban on assault and military-grade weapons. Second, add restrictions on private gun sales. Third, always require a permit to purchase any gun, anywhere. Fourth, disallow alt-right, conspiracy, and reactionary content on social media (such as Facebook, YouTube, Reddit, etc.). Fifth, add more secure and deeper background checks that go as far as history of domestic violence or abuse, and violent beliefs posted on public social platforms. Sixth, include more in-depth tests and lessons on gun owner safety. Finally, the input of a gun buyback program for assault, automatic, and/or military-grade weapons.
First off, if we were to put a ban on assault and military grade weapons in every state, it will ensure that far less citizens are in possession of such powerful weapons. Through my own research, I have found that states that have laws and restrictions against assault weapons[⁴] have a far less firearm-related death rate. California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York all have a death rate under 8 due to their restrictions.[⁵] States that do not have restrictions have death rates well over a dozen.
Second, to put restrictions on private gun sales is an extra security in ensuring that the weapon is not purchased by someone who is dangerous or not informed on gun safety. Findlaw.com showed that 28 out of our 50 states do not require background checks on private gun sales.[⁶] All states in the CDC database with a firearm-related death rate above 18 do not require background checks. States such as Alaska, Alabama, Montana, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Arkansas, Wyoming, West Virginia, and New Mexico are the worst in terms of violent crime.[⁷]
Next, a gun buyback program for assault and military-grade weapons would be rid of these guns in an easier way. In Australia in 1996, a man named Martin Bryant killed 35 people and wounded 28 with an automatic rifle. The Prime Minister, John Howard, would soon draft the National Firearms Agreement (NFA).[⁸] Zack Beauchamp for Vox says that this agreement restricted ownership of firearms, established a registry of all in the country, and required a permit for purchases (Beauchamp). The specific firearms that were banned became apart of a mandatory buyback program for all citizens. About 650,000 guns were bought from citizens and then destroyed. Beauchamp says “The average firearm suicide rate…declined by 57%…The average firearm homicide rate went down by about 42%.” (Beauchamp).[⁹]
Next, disallowing alt-right, conspiracy, and reactionary content on social media (such as Facebook, Youtube, Reddit, etc.) will keep these hateful ideologies away from impressionable young minds. Targeting fascists’ ability to have a platform and recruit is the main goal. Sixteen year old Lindsay Souvannarath became familiar with neo-nazi artists through her obsession with Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the Columbine shooters. She was able to do this through the use of Tumblr, a popular blogging website that has no moderation of harmful ideologies whatsoever for their 13+ user base. Online she met James Gamble, a young man who had similar interests to her own. The two would hit it off and eventually plan a mass shooting at a popular shopping center in Canada. Souvannarath would later be stopped at the airport and arrested due to a Crime Stoppers tip, and Gamble would end his own life as police surrounded his home.[¹⁰] Despite the excellent work taken to stop this mass shooting, two young lives were still lost because neo-nazis were allowed to freely spread their beliefs and recruit children through the use of social media.
Next, allowing background checks on public social media is an important factor in ensuring that weapons will not be used for harming others. Taking into account past crimes, such as hate crimes and/or domestic violence are also important. Devin Patrick Kelley, the man who killed over two dozen people at the First Baptist Church in Texas, had an unsurprising and even telling history. According to The Washington Post, in 2014 he was dishonorably discharged from the military for assaulting his wife and child, resulting in fractures in the infant’s skull. In the past, he had also been fined for multiple cases of animal cruelty. On his Facebook page, you could regularly find posts of his blatant misogyny towards women and their bodies.[¹¹] Neighbors and friends of Kelley said that the shooting was “shocking” and that he was just a “regular guy” (Rosenberg, Hawkins, Tate). Despite his history of domestic violence, Kelley was still able to easily obtain a Ruger AR-556, an assault style and military-grade rifle.[¹²]
Next, always requiring a permit to purchase any gun anywhere will better ensure that the weapon isn’t being obtained by someone who has not been checked out first. Finally, requiring the people to take thorough lessons and tests on gun owner safety to obtain a permit will decrease the number of accidental deaths by irresponsible gun owners.
Some might argue that it is their 2nd Amendment right to own weapons, even those of military-grade. However, the 2nd Amendment starts with the words “A well regulated…”, and even the US Supreme Court ruled that the 2nd Amendment rights are not unlimited. Some might argue that mentally ill people are the problem, not guns. Jonathan Metzl, a professor of sociology and psychiatry at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, says that “There’s no mental illness diagnosis whose symptoms include attacking or killing someone.” His research of guns and the mentally ill came to the conclusion that less than 5% of the killings in the US between 2001 and 2010 were committed by people diagnosed with mental illness (Metzl). Metzl even found that people with mental illnesses are more likely to be the victim of gun violence.[¹³]
Some might argue that more guns will create more safety from gun violence. However, CDC research done by Mother Jones showed that states with more guns have more gun deaths. For example, over 60% of adults in Alaska own a gun, so the firearm-related death rate was 20 in 2013. Whereas Rhode Island, with about 6% of adults owning guns, had a death rate of only 5 (Jones).[¹⁴]
Developed countries that have more guns have more deaths as well. According to a graph by Josh Tewksbury, Switzerland has almost 50 guns per 100 people and sees more than 3 firearm-related deaths per 100,000 people. Japan, with about 3 guns per 100 people, sees almost no firearm-related deaths (Tewksbury).
Some might argue that people will still find a way to obtain guns illegally. However true, the same could be said for deadly drugs and other illegal weapons, but that does not mean we should make them legal. They are criminalized despite being available through other means because we acknowledge their danger.
To reiterate, gun violence in America is a huge problem that most other countries do not have. American citizens do not believe that it is as great of an issue as it is due to corporations and the politicians they pay to lie to us about our current state of violence. We could all change our country for the better if we listened to the experts and the victims. Our future generations are being killed off by our ignorance and it is time to put a stop to it.