The Sad Cycle of Guns in America

By Dhruv Singh Op-Ed Editor.

There will probably be a school shooting this week. That’s not fatalism, just simple probability. There has been one for every week this year so far. And, if we manage to beat those odds, we will surely have a mass shooting today; there have been 294 of those in the past 274 days.

Yet despite, or perhaps because of, this absurd volume of violence, we have become complacent. We resign ourselves to the same pattern of behavior each time a shooter walks onto a campus and opens fire.

First, we will mourn, and justly so. Then we will offer condolences, something Congress does even better than its actual job of proposing legislation, and that is just the beginning.

Next, some will begin the arduous task of accusing others of politicizing a tragedy when the real tragedy is that we have yet to take steps towards change. Not after Columbine. Not after Aurora. Not after Sandy Hook. Not after Oregon, even though the shooter had access to thirteen guns, five magazines, and an armored vest.

For perspective, in Australia, all it took was one shooting to institute common sense buybacks of semi-automatic weapons and laws to make sure guns only ended up in the hands of those responsible enough to wield them.

At the same time, others will cry that this is a mental health issue, not a gun issue. And while many shooters exhibit some psychiatric symptoms, they are more likely to suffer from addiction, be poor, have a history of violence, and, yes, have greater access to guns. What’s more, mentally ill people are far more likely to be the victims of violence, rather than the perpetrators. And in truth, those who lambast the issue of mental illness are just using it as an excuse to dodge gun control, which is evidenced by the lack of reform to our nation’s abysmal mental health policies.

Then, if by some miracle, common sense legislation, like an assault weapons ban, is proposed, certain organizations will rush to create pandemonium. They will cry that Constitutional rights are being violated, , and that the government is coming for all our guns– which several legal scholars dispute.

They will extol the virtues of gun ownership, virtues tenuously supported by fact. Virtues that seem to ignore that gun death rates are higher in states with higher rates of gun ownership. Or that owning a gun dramatically increases a person’s chances of dying by homicide or accidental death. Or that not a single mass shooting in the past thirty years has been stopped by an armed civilian. Or that 1 in 5 ER shootings involve guns taken from security guards, a statistic that tends to refute the idea of arming teachers and principals to prevent school shootings. Or that the person you are most likely to kill by owning a gun is yourself.

In 1938, president of the National Rifle Association Karl T. Fredericks said this, “I do not believe in the general promiscuous toting of guns. I think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses.”  And that is the truth. Guns do have a role in the fabric of American society, and no one wants to take all the guns away.

But we cannot continue to stomach mass murder because we think the Second Amendment affords us that luxury. We must reform. And for those who point to the founding fathers for support of their heinous positions, we provide this quote from Thomas Jefferson.

“I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but …institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as a civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”

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