For the second year in a row, a new mass shooting has claimed the title of the worst mass shooting in modern American history. On Sunday, October 1, 2017, 58 people were killed and over 500 were injured in a mass shooting at the Harvest Festival in Las Vegas. The shooter was found dead in his hotel room, surrounded by at least 23 guns. At no point during this editorial will I be referring to any of the culprits of the heinous crimes I mention, as they have received more notoriety than they deserve already. I will, however, mention the victims: Hannah Ahlers, Jack Beaton, Andrea Castilla, and far too many more.
As devastating as this attack is, it is not altogether surprising. America has a problem with gun violence. In the first 275 days of 2017 (until October 2), there were 273 mass shootings.
And this problem is not new. It has been ten years since 32 people were killed in the Virginia Tech shooting, five years since twenty first graders died in the Sandy Hook shooting, and only one year since 49 LGBTQ+ people were shot at Pulse. But mass shootings aren’t the only part of America’s gun problem. The majority (60%) of gun deaths are suicides, and easy access to guns directly affects the suicide rates of states. Seventy-one percent of people act on suicidal thoughts within an hour of having them, and having access to a gun makes acting on those thoughts easier. In fact, It has been proven that states with more guns have more suicides and more gun deaths overall.
There is an effective and simple solution to America’s gun violence epidemic: comprehensive gun control. Of course, there are common sense gun restriction actions which would help abate gun violence. This would include universal background checks and a limit on the number of firearms one citizen can own. A ban on bump stocks, which the Las Vegas shooter used to turn a semi-automatic rifle into the equivalent of a fully automatic firearm, is a simple act that could have prevented many deaths and should have been passed when Senator Feinstein of California first proposed it in 2013.
However, we need to go further than common sense actions. Banning bump stocks would only prevent high death counts in mass shootings. However, mass shootings, while a major problem in America, are a tiny percentage of gun deaths in America. One-third of gun deaths in America are homicides, and in 2011, 73% of gun homicides were committed by handguns. Banning semi-automatic weapons and bump stocks would not affect the massive number of handgun deaths that occur in America every year. Thorough gun control and restriction measures are necessary if America wants to stop watching its people die.
As to how these measure could be put in place, Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan are all great examples. Japan has some of the strictest gun control measures in the world: civilian handgun ownership is banned altogether, and in order to procure a shotgun for hunting or sport, you need to attend classes, pass a written and psychological exam, and you and your family members can be subjected to a police background check. And these measures work. In 2014, when America had 33,000 firearm deaths, Japan had 6. That is 5,500 times more gun deaths in America, and America’s population is roughly 3 times higher than Japan’s.
America has a gun violence epidemic and the cure is in our hands, yet we are doing nothing about it. When I talk about gun control, I am not talking about sometime in the future. I am talking about now. I am talking about getting semi-automatic weapons that only belong in war zones off the streets. I am talking about banning handguns, as the majority of gun violence is facilitated by handguns. Let me be clear, I am trying to take away your guns. I am advocating for a repeal of the second amendment. Because, frankly, your right to bear arms is not more important that the tens of thousands of lives that will be lost to guns this year alone.