February 14th, 2018: Nikolas Cruz kills seventeen people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
May 18th, 2018: Dimitrios Pagourtzis kills ten and wounds ten in his own high school in Santa Fe, Texas.
October 25th, 2018: Gregory Bush kills two black men in a supermarket after being denied access to a predominantly black church in Jeffersontown, Kentucky.
October 27th, 2018: Robert Gregory Bowers kills eleven people in the Tree of Life Synagogue on the Jewish Sabbath in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
November 2nd, 2018: Scott Beierle kills two women and wounds five others during an evening yoga class in Tallahassee, Florida.
November 7th, 2018: Ian David Long kills twelve people in the Borderline Bar and Grille in Thousand Oaks, California.
The University of Washington recently came out with its annual report which compares gun violence in the U.S. to that of other countries. America has the 28th-highest rate of deaths due to gun violence in the world, with almost 4.5 deaths per every 100,000 people. Compared to other countries of similar socioeconomic development and status such as the U.K., Denmark, and Canada, the United States “really stands out,” says professor of global health and epidemiology, Ali Mokdad. The University’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluations states that we should be seeing less than 0.5 deaths per 100,000 people, yet our current rate is more than nine times that.
So, what’s the problem? Why do we stand out? I personally have never really held a strong opinion on gun control, because I never felt like I was informed enough to make an educated decision. But over the past few years, I and so many others have been forced to take at least some semblance of a stance on the issue. It’s becoming more and more obvious to countless Americans that something is wrong. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, we all can agree that mass amounts of people being killed every year, every month, every week is not an ideal situation for any country, much less one that considers itself to be among the most developed in the world. For Americans, the principle argument that fuels the gun debate is fairly simple: freedom versus safety. Freedom is an essential American value, of course, but based on recent events, it could not be clearer that the freedom to have guns is being exploited. Since the beginning of 2018, over three hundred shootings have occurred in the United States, resulting in 328 people dead and over 1,250 people injured in these tragic events––just in the span of 311 days.
Meanwhile, Everytown for Gun Safety found that around 38% of mass shootings are perpetrated by people who, for reasons of criminal or violent history, were legally prohibited from gun ownership, but found a way to get them anyway. This is, obviously, a demonstration of the fact that access to illegal guns is much too easy, but it implies something even more chilling to me – the fact that over 60% of mass shootings are caused by people who obtained their guns legally. People with no restrictions on guns take advantage of that privilege to kill their fellow citizens.
The Democratic Party has been the main advocate for stricter gun control laws in the past few years, and the movement has recently made a lot of ground since the Parkland shooting survivors have been speaking out about their experiences. The students proclaim themselves to be not anti-gun, but “pro not-dying,” and their efforts have not gone unnoticed. In the recent November midterms, two dozen NRA-backed candidates were defeated in House elections. Many Americans in favor of gun control are hopeful that in the future, obtaining guns will not be so easy.
It is important to recognize the Second Amendment. But it is also important to recognize the thousands of people who have been hurt or killed due to gun violence in the United States since its implementation, especially in the past few decades, due to people using their right to bear arms to target and murder their fellow human beings. It’s time to take a second look at our gun laws. Children should not fear going to school, and adults should not fear going to a club or a music festival to have fun. No one should fear going shopping or going to their place of worship. It is a freedom and a privilege to bear arms, but it should not be a right when it comes at the expense of human lives. We are not and will never truly be a land of freedom if the ability to live freely is taken away from us by fear of a cold heart and a gun.