Yesterday, December 14th, 2022, marked the ten year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre where twenty kids (all under the age of eight) and six faculty were tragically shot and killed. This article is dedicated to the victims and their loved ones. My heart is with you during this awful time.
Since I began writing this post a week ago, an estimated 700 people have been injured or killed by guns in the United States. As of December 14th, 2022, there have been at least 628 mass shootings in the US this year alone. There have been 42,203 gun-related deaths; 22,968 of those were suicides and 19,235 were murders.
The sad truth is that these numbers aren’t even shocking anymore. We have grown comfortably uncomfortable with shootings. We see the news, acknowledge it, and then move on with our days. This is one of the many reasons why shootings keep happening. We have somehow allowed them to become our new normal, and how can we change what’s normal?
It's so easy to sit back, make an Instagram post for the victims, and then never think about it again. I understand the appeal of not thinking about this terrible subject. But there are so many shootings that every time my school enters a lockdown or shelter-in-place, I cling to my friends' hands and anxiously await the sound of gunshots. Thankfully, these lockdowns and shelter-in-places have just been drills or minor issues, but for many kids, they aren't.
On February 14th, 2018, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. He shot and killed 17 people. He used an AR-15, a military-grade weapon designed for assault. I remember hearing about the shooting in real time. Three of my closest friends went to the middle school next door at the time of the tragedy. I remember texting them, praying that they were okay.
On May 24th, 2022, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos entered his former school, Robb Elementary, in Uvalde, Texas. He shot and killed 19 children and 2 teachers. Children learning their multiplication tables died because of guns and a sick individual.
Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland, Oxford, Uvalde, UVA, etc, we should not have to worry about friends, family, or ourselves when going somewhere that is supposed to be safe. This includes supermarkets, festivals, bars, clubs, offices, and others. Safe spaces are turning unsafe partially due to the lack of adequate gun regulations.
As of June 2022, there were no federal laws banning semiautomatic assault weapons, military style .50 caliber rifles, handguns, or large-capacity magazines. All of these have been used to kill innocent people, yet no stricter regulations have been set. We have been shown time and time again that significantly increasing gun restrictions has drastically decreased gun violence rates. Let's look at some of the statistics for gun violence in other countries compared to the US.
In 2020, 79% of homicides in the US were gun-related. In Canada, 37%. In Australia, 13%. In the UK, only 4%. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, following a 1987 mass shooting where a lone gunman killed more than a dozen people, plus himself, with two semiautomatic rifles, Britain introduced the Firearms (Amendment) Act. This Act expanded the list of banned weapons, including certain semiautomatics. It also increased the registration requirements for other weapons. In 1996 in Dunblane, Scotland, a man shot and killed 16 schoolchildren and one adult with four handguns before shooting himself. This tragedy sparked the Snowdrop Petition, which helped drive legislation banning handguns and deeper background checks. Since this ban, UK firearm offenses involving any injury fell to 1,340 in 2015, compared to more than 5,000 in 1995. Additionally, a majority of police officers are unarmed, reflecting lower police officer violence levels. The most common weapon in British crime is a knife now, not a gun.
There is evidence of a correlation between gun bans and a decrease in gun-related violence. The UK is a perfect example of learning from their mistakes; they fixed an issue before more people could get hurt. Despite this, many gun control critics say that mental health is the real problem, not guns. And while mental health can play a role in gun violence, access to guns is the primary culprit. Had mental health been the main factor influencing gun violence, we would expect research to show that Canada, Australia, and the UK have significantly lower mental health problems than the U.S. due to their lower gun violence rates. But that is not the case. According to the New York Times, in the United States, the mental health care spending rate, the number of mental health professionals per capita, and the rate of severe mental health disorders are all in line with other wealthy countries. While mental health can and should be improved, we must strengthen gun regulation to treat the shooting epidemic.
Through stricter background checks, mental health should be evaluated as well. Stopping someone with deteriorating mental health from buying firearms will prevent suicides by guns as well as lessen mass shootings. According to a 2019 study conducted by The Journalist's Resource, universal background checks can be very effective when paired with licensing strategies, like permit-to-purchase. A 2018 study in the Journal of Urban Health found a 14% drop in firearm homicides in large, urban areas. Similarly, after a decade of implementing a permit-to-purchase law, there was a 40% drop in firearm homicide rates in Connecticut. Firearm homicide rates increased 23% in the three years since Missouri got rid of their permit-to-purchase requirement in 2007.
I know I just spat out a lot of numbers and jargon, but people don't listen and don't act without hard evidence. I know that the Second Amendment has been interpreted to provide Americans with the right to own guns. I am not saying that an entire ban is the best and only option since guns can also save lives in self-defense matters. But we have to be flexible and reach a compromise.
I am tired of teenagers' opinions on gun control being disregarded by our elders due to our age and lack of "experience." We speak out about gun violence BECAUSE of our experience. I am tired of sitting in the corners of my classroom waiting to hear gunshots ring out and feel sticky blood soaking through my clothes. I am tired of texting friends and praying that they are okay. I am tired of people losing loved ones every day because of a preventable issue.
Enough is enough. Let's stop the killings.
DEADLIEST SHOOTINGS AND THEIR VICTIMS
(I cannot fit every single shooting on here, but this list isn't even close to being finished)
Dave Lawler, Orion Rummler. “A List of America's 23 Deadliest Modern Mass Shootings.” Axios, 25 May 2022, https://www.axios.com/2017/12/15/deadliest-mass-shootings-modern-us-history.
“Dunblane's Snowdrops: How a School Shooting Changed British Gun Laws.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 13 Mar. 2016, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/dunblane-s-snowdrops-how-school-shooting-changed-british-gun-laws-n535671.
Franklin, Jonathan. “Where AR-15-Style Rifles Fit in America's Tragic History of Mass Shootings.” NPR, NPR, 26 May 2022, https://www.npr.org/2022/05/26/1101274322/uvalde-ar-15-style-rifle-history-shooter-mass-shooting#:~:text=AR%2D15%2Dstyle%20semiautomatic%20weapons,advocates%20told%20NPR%20in%202018.
Gal, Shayanne, et al. “The US Has Had at Least 604 Mass Shootings so Far in 2022. Here's the Full List.” Insider, Insider, 22 Nov. 2022, https://www.insider.com/number-of-mass-shootingsin-america-this-year-2022-5.
“Gun Violence Archive.” Gun Violence Archive, https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/.
“'It's the Guns': Violent Week in a Deadly Year Prompts Familiar US Responses.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 23 Nov. 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/nov/23/us-gun-violence-mass-shootings-2022-walmart-virginia-colorado.
“Mass Shootings: America's Challenge for Gun Control Explained in Seven Charts.” BBC News, BBC, 12 Oct. 2022, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-41488081.
Merrefield, Clark, and About The Author Clark Merrefield Clark Merrefield joined The Journalist’s Resource in 2019 after working as a reporter for Newsweek and The Daily Beast. “Can Universal Background Checks Curb Gun Violence? Here's What the Research Says.” The Journalist's Resource, 30 June 2022, https://journalistsresource.org/politics-and-government/background-checks-gun-violence-research/.
“U.S. Gun Policy: Global Comparisons.” Council on Foreign Relations, Council on Foreign Relations, https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/us-gun-policy-global-comparisons.