Facing down the barrel of a gun

by Casey Dalager / Beacon Correspondent • January 13, 2016

Over the past three years in America, there have been exactly 1,074 mass shootings recorded by the Gun Violence Archive. These separate incidents have resulted in a total of 1,360 lives lost, and over 3,000 people hospitalized. In Australia, a country that underwent a series of reforms to curb gun violence, there have been zero mass shootings in the last three years. In the United Kingdom, there have been none. And in Germany, also none. Once again, America is number one, and as of now, there is little chance of another nation catching up.

America is the only international power where this is happening, and we are doing very little to stop it. Each mass shooting overshadows the one before, and the public has come to accept them as a sad thing that just happens. In the past two years, over 6,000 children have become casualties to gun violence. This sort of thing should not “just happen.” America needs to be disgusted by firearms at this point—our president is—but even as President Obama struggles to pass executive orders, some call him a tyrant. America has a problem, and that problem is the Second Amendment.

Even the smallest efforts to curb gun violence are stopped at every turn with cries about upholding this part of the Constitution. The truth is we don’t deserve a right to bear arms, and saying this could get me shot in certain parts of the country. I grew up in Kentucky and Nebraska; I have seen first-hand an American subculture that practically worships guns. Hell, I once went on a church retreat called Guys, Guns and God. I have fired pistols, Uzis, and fully automatic machine guns, and I get that it’s fun. But no matter how responsible you are, there is always someone who isn’t. Irresponsibility with firearms can and will kill those around you. We are only 14 days into 2016, and there have already been 1,300 gun-related injuries or deaths across the country, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

With the repeated striking down of legislation, anti-regulation groups like the National Rifle Association have assured the only way this violence can be stopped is through complete disarmament. It is too easy to get a weapon, and none of the regulations that are getting through Congress have any hope of stopping that. High-power firearms are commonly bought online and at gun conventions without any kind of background check in the vast majority of states. Even then, a 2015 investigation by CNBC and the Center for Responsive Politics revealed that there are still parties who spend upwards of $15 million annually lobbying to reduce legislation even further. Without purchase, getting a gun is still laughably easy. One out of every three families in America has at least one firearm, according to the Pew Research Center, and oftentimes those are not even secured. Because of this, the United States Bureau of Justice reports that over 200,000 firearms are stolen from homes every year.

Things were very much the same in Australia during the late ‘90s; guns were cheap and readily available. Then, however, a man committed the largest mass shooting in history: the Port Arthur massacre. The perpetrator legally purchased hundreds of rounds of ammunition and two assault rifles before going on a killing spree. He murdered 35 people, including children as young as 3 years old. The government had enough. Australia initiated a compulsory buy-back program where they purchased and destroyed over half a million firearms from its citizens. This had a definite effect—not only have there been no mass shootings since, but due to the buy-back program, the $1,000 weapon that was used in the Sandy Hook massacre can now only be purchased illegally for upwards of $35,000. Australia was able to make a change, but unfortunately, America’s devotion to the Second Amendment remains a major obstacle.

Earlier this month, Obama outlined a series of executive orders on gun control, including moves to ensure that every firearm purchase consists of a background check. The president explained in his article published in The New York Times that he seeks to crack down on firearm companies who have virtual immunity from the law thanks to the efforts of gun lobbyists. Many in this country, however, are still fighting for reform efforts. But if we want to end gun violence, perhaps we need to change our rights. We lost our privileges to guns; one thousand seventy three strikes, and you’re out. I would say enough is enough, but if hundreds of thousands of incidents aren’t enough for the American public and lawmakers, then I don’t know what ever will be.