Mass Shootings in America: What Needs to Change?

Ryan Carragher, Staff Writer

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According to ABC News, as of Nov. 30th, 2018 there were 323 mass shootings in America this year. The 30th was the 334th day of the year; the United States has had almost one mass shooting per day. The definition by Gun Violence Archive states that for an act of gun violence to be considered a mass shooting, three or more people must be injured or killed within a certain span of time, and the shooter may or may not have any intended targets.

The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution states that Americans have the right to bear arms, directly relating to gun ownership and the right to buy and use guns. Conservatives and Republicans are generally heavily in favor of the individual’s rights, and are particularly vocal about gun ownership. Idealizing conservative values, senior Maddy Knopf stated that, “[her] gut reaction is to keep the federal government out of state rights. But, because of how bad [gun violence] has gotten, maybe it’s time for the federal government to step in.” According to Gun Violence Archive, although California is one of the most progressive and democratic states in the United States, it has the second highest number of fatal mass shootings of all 50 states so far in 2018. It has introduced new gun laws this year, changing the amount of ammo a person can buy, and limiting particular guns that are allowed in other states, yet these laws have not slowed down the amount of mass shootings.

The United States has consistently dealt with gun violence throughout the states, letting individual states deal with these issues. One major problem with gun violence is the number of firearms that are stolen or lost each year. Those who own guns must be able to display their methods for maintaining their firearms, as a study by Statista in 2017 found that there were 1,750 guns lost or stolen in Texas alone. When informed on this particular statistic, junior Kas Bakker was shocked, saying, “You need to be able to keep your gun safe, for the exact example of criminal activity or even just misplacing it. Firearms are dangerous, no matter whose hands they are in.” Sophomore Warren Singer was of a similar mindset, saying that “you must prove that you can maintain your gun, or else you shouldn’t have the ability to get one.”

On Nov. 7th of 2018, a 26-year old U.S. Army veteran walked into a bar full of college students on a virgin bar night, where non-alcoholic drinks were being served. The man threw a smoke grenade into the middle of the dance floor, and preceded to open fire with his handgun. The veteran knew how to use his gun; he killed 13 people and injured two others, including a police sergeant. His neighbors called local police in April of the same year, worried about his capabilities and mental health. However, after some testing, specialists confirmed that it was not necessary for him to be taken to a mental health institute. Seven months later, 13 people are dead and a lot of questions are being raised. After hearing about the shooting and thinking about what could change, sophomore Katie Jensen said, “Mental health specialists [or law enforcement] should continue to check up on the people they are responding to calls about, possibly once a month to keep a close eye on them.”

According to Time, a majority of mass shootings are caused by those with depression, addiction issues or PTSD: “Background checks also fail to address the problem of those who descend into a potentially violent tailspin — whether from addiction, PTSD or some other life stressor — sometime after they acquire their weapons… gun owners must renew their licenses, which protects the public from dangerous individuals by removing their weapons.” Background checks at the moment vary from state to state; however, many say that currently, they are not detailed enough. However, freshman Olivia Jones had another idea for how best to help American citizens. Jones said that there should be a “mandatory gun safety lesson for all [Americans], on how to protect each other and ourselves from gun violence and recognizing signs of dangerous situations and people.” These checks usually entail the disciplinary background of a person looking to buy a gun, as well as known addresses, bankruptcies, and other financial information. According to freshman Henry Hess, background checks “should involve heavily detailed mental health tests to prevent mass shooters from obtaining a gun.” Junior Hana Bajwa agrees, stating that background checks in general need to be “much more thorough and involve all aspects of a person.” Background checks evidently need to be more issue-specific, and should involve renewing a gun license, even if it is once a year or once every other year.

Many Americans are calling for changes in law, furthering measures already put in place to limit the number of mass shootings. Some may assume that as a progressive state, California would have a lower number of mass shootings with its restrictive gun laws and firearm distribution. Senior Jack Higgins disagrees, saying that, “looking at California as the most populated [state], it’s impossible really to compare the state with other high rate states because of the population distribution,” and “it’s all good and fair to point out the number of shootings, but it is nearly impossible to measure shootings and population.” California has attempted to put new gun laws in their legislature. However, they have never passed in the state congress due to the number of republicans in the legislature. Bakker is calling for change, reminiscing on the fact that “in Europe, there are no guns, and therefore no mass shootings. Sure we Europeans have our moments, but things are much better there with no guns available to any man [or woman] who wants to buy a gun.” Bakker, among many others, wants change in America. What change do you want to see?