Bethany Woodhead takes a scathing look at gun violence overseas
Frankly, I was unsure as to how to approach this topic. How do I condense the copious amounts of grief, anger and pain felt by victims in America into an 800-word article? Although there is no fixed definition for a mass shooting, the general consensus it that it involves four or more people being shot in a single location, not including the shooter. However, gang shootings involving four or more people being shot do not fall under the category of "mass shooting", but "gang violence" – thus perverting the statistics. Since the beginning of 2018, there has already been a total of 37 recorded mass shootings. In 1,870 days there were 1,624 mass shootings – with 346 of them occurring in 2017 alone – consequently putting the statistics at a mass shooting on nine out of every 10 days, on average. Although mass shootings dominate headlines and drive public political wars, they actually only account for 2% of gun deaths in America. If owning a gun was an effective means of self-defence, your insurance rates would go down when you bought one. But, in actuality, it is proven that you are much more likely to shoot yourself or a family member, rather than someone attacking you, and that’s why they go up instead. How much longer do innocent people have to die before something changes?
A leading argument from the anti-gun movement, which is currently surging in America, are the examples of Port Arthur and Dunblane. In the 18 years prior to Australia’s 1996 Port Arthur incident, there were 13 mass shootings. Conservative prime minister at the time, John Howard, implemented sweeping gun control laws and since then there have been no mass shootings and the homicide rate involving guns has dropped by 50-60%. Similarly, after the horrific school shooting in Dunblane, Scotland, in which 16 children and a teacher were killed, Conservative prime minister John Major introduced the Firearms Amendment Act, which was updated the following year by Labour PM, Tony Blair and, since then, the UK has also seen zero mass shootings.
I cannot fathom how gun lobbyists in the USA are able to consciously support the fact that 265 million guns are owned by Americans, and their country consequently has the highest proportion of gun violence in the developed world. Personally, I don’t buy into their "constitutional right" argument. In the past 200 years, the Constitution has been amended 27 times, with some of the most remarkable changes being the abolishment of slavery in 1865, and the female right to vote in 1920. These legal changes come with cultural evolvement; however, when it comes to guns, Americans are incredibly primitive. In 1689, the Bill of Rights allowed citizens the right to keep and bears arms, and this is something hardcore gun-lovers grasp onto when defending their views. But back when this was written, muskets and flintlock pistols were the typical firearms of the day. They could only hold a single round at a time and even the most skilled shooters could only hope to fire three or four rounds per minute. Moreover, they only had an accurate firing range of about 50 metres. Compare this to a modern-day AR-15: a magazine capacity of 30 rounds, an effective rate of 45 rounds per minute and an accurate firing range of around 550 metres. The artillery available to general public in the USA today consists mostly of handguns and semi-automatic weapons which can inflict horrific carnage – as blatantly shown in the empirical evidence above.
Another utterly ludicrous argument at the forefront of the NRA’s case is the idea that "guns don’t kill people: people kill people". It’s a tired, logic-deficient claim and I am sick of hearing this sidestep in the debate. Of course, guns don’t just spontaneously shoot up a school by themselves; however, with this logic, everyone should have access to dangerous means to inflict death – nukes being a great example. After all, nukes don’t kill people; people do, so why not all have access to our very own personal nuke? Guns enable a lot of damage to be imposed very quickly, to a lot of people, and from a great distance. So at the end of the day, people do kill people, but having a gun means people are killed easier and quicker.
American legislation overall is a little bit backwards; a woman’s uterus is more regulated than firearms are! Only 10 states in the US have a waiting period for purchasing guns; on the other hand, over 27 states have a mandatory 24-hour waiting period for an abortion and many require patients to make two trips to the clinic. 36 states don’t require any licence, registration or permit to own and operate a gun; whereas a woman seeking an abortion must have a note from her doctor proving she understands what she’s about to do, and minors require parental permission. If we treated young men wanting to buy guns like a woman wanting an abortion, we’d impose this waiting period and doctor approval upon them. They’d be forced to watch a video about the effects of gun violence and be forced to travel hundreds of miles to a gun shop, take time off work to get it and stay overnight in a strange town feeling frightened and upset. We’d force him to walk through a mob of people screaming "murderer" and holding pictures of dead loved ones, and we’d feed him inaccurate information to try and dissuade his purchase. Currently, five American states actually inform patients in their abortion clinics that there is a link between breast cancer and abortion – a false fact!
It is bitterly unfortunate that it is the youth of America who are having to delay the grief of losing their classmates and teachers in order to fight for their right to be safe in their place of education. An increasing number of Americans are demanding change. They are exhausted by the perpetuation of gun violence. Suicides, homicides, mass shootings and accidental deaths involving guns are so rife that many cases do not even make the media. We do not need more "good guys with guns" to combat the "bad guys with guns", as Trump would have you believe. However, I was utterly stunned to hear some sense coming out of Donald Trump’s mouth this week following the recent Parkland school shooting – and no it’s not the senseless idea to arm teachers with weapons. After the Las Vegas shooting of October last year, Trump declared to the NRA that "you have a true friend and champion in the White House" – not exactly a revelation, as they donated $21 million to his presidential campaign. Nonetheless, he has argued this week that he thinks it’s reckless that you can buy a semi-automatic gun at aged 18, but must wait until aged 21 for a pistol. He believes in raising the age on all gun purchases to 21-years-old. Considering his normally far-right stance on the issue, at least he’s taken a baby-step. And perhaps he is the first and only president that can impose stricter gun laws as he appeals to the part of the population who have always had an unwavering devotion to the "right to bear arms". Overall, adding more guns to a situation where guns are the problem is clearly ridiculous, but it won’t be this way forever. Youth movements have achieved the seemingly impossible many times before… They will do it again.