IN DEPTH: Gun control
March 16, 2018
Gun control: a call to action
Guns and gun control have been at the forefront of headlines since the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on Feb. 14, raising controversy over laws across the nation.
The process of getting guns has posed questions of not only the nation’s safety, but also its liability for the 17 students that were killed. Because gun laws are regulated by the states themselves, the laws have been upheld as constitutional thus far, but this has not stopped the public from speaking out about them.
“I think you should not be allowed to buy firearms until you are at least 21-years-old, and I also don’t think you should buy automatic or semi-automatic assault weapons,” sophomore Tanya Edquist said. “I think there is no purpose for a kid or anyone under the age of two needing to have a gun or being able to have one.”
On Mar. 14, one month following the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, schools across the nation held a 17 minute walkout to stand against gun laws and give a memorial for those who passed in the event. Edquist and sophomore Edward Burns were two among many at Carlsbad who walked out in opposition to the nation’s current gun laws.
“I’m walking out as both a memorial and for the changing of gun laws. I think doing one without the other would be disrespectful,” Burns said. “I think we should have obviously more restrictions on who can buy guns. I think we should have more background checks, and we shouldn’t sell weapons that are obviously military grade.”
In the process of buying a gun, if the customer is not convicted of a felon or is not a fugitive from justice, the ability to obtain a gun is highly feasible. The longest that the screening process takes across the board is three days. Following three days, the seller can lawfully sell the gun to the buyer, regardless of the screening process not having been completed yet. This step has spurred outbursts of public opinion.
“Who honestly thinks that [the screening process] shouldn’t change?” Burns said. “Who thinks we shouldn’t have background checks on people, [that if for some reason, the screening process] expires we should just let them have guns?”
The time allotted for screening processes and background checks has been questioned widely by the public, and specifically by the FBI, posing recommendations to prolong the screening period. Regardless of the outrage caused by current laws, Congress has yet to make any federal changes that would change gun laws across the nation.
“Obviously most people don’t even need a gun,” Burns said. “I don’t understand why people need even semi-automatic guns or even pistols. If you look at Europe, that has a much lower crime rate, [and] never has school shootings, the one variable that makes them distinct from the United States is that their citizens do not have the right to have the right to a gun.”
Examples of regions with gun laws that were changed after shootings are the UK, Japan, Australia and Germany. These four regions currently have gun control, and Japan specifically has sets of strict regulations before it is possible for citizens to obtain guns. Japanese citizens must attend full fledged, day long class, receive 95 percent accuracy on a shooting-range test, pass a written test, pass a mental-health evaluation and a background check done by the government before anyone can have a gun. In the U.S., the bypassing of the screening-process is possible with the possession of a permit, and the focal point of denying guns is through the screening process itself. Permits are attainable through online, self-applied background checks, that do not require in-depth screening. Among several states it is a requirement that the buyer go through the screening process, but less than 20 states make it absolutely mandatory.
“I’m walking out to fix gun laws,” freshman Rylee Wilson said. “I was in a school shooting, the Kelly one. I was in elementary school, so I feel very strongly for this. I wish that we could completely not have [guns], but that seems almost impossible. I really hope that there’s more control, so that these shootings aren’t as easy. It’s unbearable and it’s insane. Honestly, if they’re going to keep guns, there should at least be a background check, but a very vigorous one. It’s too easy.”
Staff and students react to the tragedy in Florida
On Feb. 14, 2018, the United States witnessed yet again another tragic shooting– and this time at a high school. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida suffered 17 losses and faced many injuries. Since 2003, there has been over 300 school shootings where there has been harm brought to students and teachers on campus. One of the most recent shootings in Florida has brought to the attention of the public the dangers of guns and what people can do to make a safer school environment. Along with the fight against guns, people have began taking more precautions at schools to avoid another devastating shooting.
“I was very upset (about the shooting),” school security guard Tony Sullivan said. “I was upset that someone would go to a school and actually shoot it up with the students and everything.”
The security crew at the high school has made several accommodations to make Carlsbad High School a safe place for all the students and teachers inside. These security measures make our school a safe environment and help avoid dangerous situations.
“We have things in place,” Sullivan said. “We have a staff of seven to nine campus supervisors, we have cameras here, we are always controlling the gates. We are all over the place. We do not let the public come in without being announced. In other words, they have to stop in the front office and sign in before they come into our school grounds. When they sign in, they get a badge. If the badge is on, no problem but if there is someone here that we may not recognize and they don’t have a badge that says they are a visitor here, we approach them and we ask, ‘Can we help you? Why are you here?’. And then we point them back up to the office and that’s basically the protocol and procedure we do.”
By having these strict protocols, our school is under protection from outsiders because of the experienced staff and the need for announcement upon entering the school. With this said, the security staff has been on high alert because of the inclining number of shootings in America.
“It’s like anything,” Sullivan said. “Like for instance if there is a lot of accidents on a corner, they will finally put up a street light. Things are always going to be added but there is a lot already done so that (the students) should feel safe here because I think my crew does a really good job of doing what we do here. Added wise, I think we are a little more visible and we are really just always looking even at our own students. Just watching everyone I guess a little closer.”
Sophomore Buffy Howe expresses how she feels about the school environment and her experience as a student in high school with the recent events in the news concerning shootings in academic setting.
“I do feel safe at school,” Howe said. “I have never felt truly dangered or threatened. We are truly blessed to live here and have the ability to attend school without having to live in fear. However, something that might make me feel safer is knowing that there is a set plan in the rare event of something actually happening.”
Races part in gun control
More and more mass shootings have been committed in the past few years. Many have speculated that the issue is re-occuring due to the color of the person committing these crimes.
We are three months into the new year and there have been eight mass shootings, the most recent one being Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. While many are left wondering why there has been absolutely no change, the answer is clear: the killers are white. When crimes are perpetrated by a Latino or a Black person, people are so quick to label that entire race as thugs, gang members, and criminals.
The reality of the situation is that change is made when the problem or tragedy is at the hands of a person of color but we are so completely used to a white man’s rage that this issue is ignored.
Adam Lanza, Eric Harris and David Klebold; all white males who have commited the most horrendous school massacres in the history of the U.S, these names are just 3 out of a long list. According to Mother JonesMagazine, “ 64 perecent of mass shootings are commited by white people. 16 percent are committed by Black people, Asians were responsible for 9 percent and Latinos, Natives and people of unknown races have rounded out the rest (8 percent)”
While it may make people uncomfortable, it is the truth that the only reason that tragedies such as these are taken so lightly is a result of the killers being white and native born americans. We profile people everywhere we go and we grow up having perceived views of people who are of different races, people who we are taught are not like us. We automatically assume that someone is a ‘thug’ if they grew up on the ‘bad’ side of town and that they are the people that we need to watch out for. When we see a colored man walking down the street, our instinct is to cross onto the other side and our alert is automatically put on high. If we were to profile white males like we do colored people these tragedies wouldn’t occur as often as they do. There have been 15 school shootings since 1990, and eight of them have been committed by white males, that is 53%. This should’ve never become an issue in the first place and it is an absolute shame that people would much rather brush the issue off than admit to themselves why there has not been a change.
When we consider who could be a threat and what could be done to make them no longer a threat, it comes down to what their race is. When a Black man is a “ threat”, there is no sympathy because he grew up surrounded by “bad” people and it is instinct to succumb to the level of committing crimes. When a white man is a “ threat”, we need to help them and befriend them so they won’t feel they way they do. They are victims and it is not instinct that drove them to these crimes but rather a mental health issue.
The matter of the fact is that, our inbreed racism is killing people. Although it is not blatant racism, it is just as harmful. If we are not putting in the effort to recognize it, we are the problem.
Why I walked out
Guns are an issue. They just are. And if you disagree with me, and think that the answer is not gun control but only adding more guns, or arming more authority figures, that is fine. I did not walk out of school this Wednesday to prove you wrong; I, and the other students, walked out to make a statement about an issue we care about- to prove that students have a voice and we will scream until our throats run dry.
Now, I know that many people that walked out may not have done it for the best reasons, but nonetheless, seeing that many of my peers out on the field, speaking their minds, and taking a stand was actually quite powerful, and proved that students can create change. Many people that walked out, including myself, walked out to advocate for gun control, and to protest the lack of action our President has taken.
However, I do realize that many people who walked out did so simply to honor the lives we have lost, and that, in itself, is just as significant. With an issue this complex, political parties cannot matter. This is bigger than a Republican versus Democrat problem. This is a matter of safety; this is a matter of priorities; and this is a matter of allowing students to attend school every day without them fearing for their lives.
I know we are just students, and I know change will not happen overnight, however, this walkout was a testament to the strength us students have, and our willingness to take this matter into our hands, since it seems like no one else will.
We will not and cannot stay quiet about this issue. It is our right to protest this inaction, and it is our right to survive a school day, regardless of how many guns must be taken away to do so.
The fact is, guns are a problem and teenagers are ready to stand against anyone who disagrees. I walked out to support the students who have suffered, to protest the “thoughts and prayers” that do nothing to help people heal, and to use whatever small voice I may have to yell as loud as I can until someone listens and change happens.
If you would like to participate in this movement, there are many petitions regarding gun control and school shootings on change.org and other websites.
Balancing gun use in America
With constant occurrences of mass shootings, the supposed American culture of guns seems to be receiving more and more backlash. Many Americans’ lifestyles still revolve around gun ownership, but while the gun control debate has become a complex talk of laws and regulations, an important question remains: Should Americans lose their right to bear arms when it comes to shooting sports, such as hunting?
In a survey consisting of 92 students, the majority, 29.3%, of them believe we should ban some guns, but sporting guns should be allowed. These students argue that we need gun restrictions in a way that limits our second amendment right only when it comes to the extremely dangerous and unnecessary guns. At the same time, these stricter gun laws will allow for the licensed people to enjoy their guns.
“I was always in favor of increased regulation, but the recent shootings have strengthened my opinion that those who chose to use a gun for sport should be better regulated and controlled,” junior Corin Magee said. “I think that some people should be able to use guns in sports, because the vast majority of people who do are well trained and certified. That being said, I also believe that we need to get substantially stricter on who has access to guns and what guns are being used. Lives are more important, but freedoms shouldn’t be unnecessarily restricted.”
When analyzing who should be able to obtain a gun or not, students recognize that many Americans still rely on certain benefits guns can bring. People in rural environments own the most guns, and they’re also more likely to use their guns for hunting than people living in urban areas.
“Some people still hunt for their food,” sophomore Leo Barruetto said. “For example, many people in Alaska rely on rifles to put food on the table for their families.”
This need for guns in some areas of America is not to say that we should allow all guns. Despite the National Rifle Association’s efforts to identify with sporting gun owners, around 90% of gun owners are not members of the NRA. This is because the majority of certified gun owners just use a gun that adequately fulfills their hobby and provides for good hunts, so the extreme assault weapons are irrelevant to them.
“Most hunters would agree that using a high rate of fire assault rifle defeats the purpose and skill involved in hunting,” senior Dillan Krichbaum said.
This common understanding between most gun owners and those advocating for gun control simplifies the debate overall. Many guns must be eliminated, but we must also respect the fact that people all over the country rely on their guns, and they do so honestly and responsibly.
“[Gun shooting] is a hobby just like everything else, and it should be allowed,” senior Dailey Sparks said. “Gun culture is not just shooting. It is a community of very friendly and good hearted people who are wanting to help others, and most of all, they are very accepting of new people. Every member is eager to help new people learn the rules and proper safety of guns, and we all do our best to stress the importance of safety.”
European countries are doing something right
In Austria, there is no problem with gun violence, and there is something to be learned from this.
For months now, citizens have been viewing news headlines like these- The Truth About the Florida School Shooting, 7,000 Shoes Outside Capitol Represent Children Killed by Guns, and Kentucky school shooting: 2 dead and 15 more shot at Marshall County High School. And the list goes on. Gun violence is a very real issue in America. We simply have to face it. Countless numbers of innocent women, children and men have lost their lives to guns, and it is time to see what we can do to solve this issue.
Last week, my family hosted an Austrian exchange student, and he informed us that in his home country, there is hardly any issue with gun violence. No school shootings, no mass murders, nothing. Receiving this information left me astounded. It was so difficult for me to imagine what it must be like to live in a country without the fear of someone at my school possibly being the next mass shooter.
Though Austria is thought to have the most relaxed gun laws in the European Union, the country still faces few issues with gun control, recording only one mass shooting back in 2013. Only around 3000 people in Austria own guns, compared to America’s 8900 people.
Austria is not the only country in the European Union that does not have a problem with gun violence. The highest gun ownership in Europe is in Switzerland, with 4600 owners, which is almost half that of the U.S. Additionally, the U.S. has more than 70 mass shootings, while the highest number in European countries is seven. Knowing these statistics, it is pretty clear what needs to happen here in the U.S. to stop this absurd issue.
This was the moment I confirmed my view on gun control. From this knowledge, I could confidently say that guns need to be banned. There is no valid reason that justifies innocent people being killed. The European Union is doing something right, and the U.S. needs to follow in their footsteps.