1996, Dunblane Primary School in Stirling, Scotland. A man enters the school and shoots and kills 16 young students and a teacher before shooting and killing himself. New legislation passes, outlawing the use of handguns. Since then, there have been no school shootings in the United Kingdom.The same year at a cafe in Tasmania, Australia, a man enters a cafe and kills 35 people with semi-automatic weapons. Less than two weeks after this, the entirety of Australia moves to enact new legislation that bans these weapons, as well as requiring justifiable reason and a month-long waiting period to purchase a legal gun. While gun violence has not entirely disappeared in Australia, the country has not seen a mass shooting in the 20 years since the new laws passed.
How many more citizens have to die before the United States realizes that gun violence is a legitimate problem?
Since the Columbine shooting in 1999, the U.S. has seen countless mass shootings. Shootings have taken place in many different settings: churches, an LGBT+ nightclub, schools. Each time, the same, inevitable cycle takes place: The flurry of opinionated Facebook posts begins with arguments on both sides—some calling for immediate change in legislation, and some standing firm that “guns don’t kill people; people kill people.”
Many pro-gun advocates cite the Second Amendment when making their arguments: “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Plain as day, right? Let people keep their guns. But, as I am learning in Engaging the Bible (shout-out to Regina!), one needs to understand the context under which something was written. Time period and societal structure play a substantial role in laws enacted. In 1791, when the Second Amendment was adopted, a new government had just been established. Undoubtedly, there existed some dissidents to the newly minted government. My argument is that people need to start looking at the first half of the Second Amendment, which speaks of a “well-regulated militia,” and really understand the definition of “militia.”
Merriam-Webster defines “militia” as “a part of the organized armed forces of a country liable to call only in emergency.” I don’t claim to have an extensive knowledge of the American military system, but I do feel that any civilian-based military force shouldn’t be armed with a weapon that can fire off multiple rounds per second. In fact, when the Second Amendment was written, the idea of semi-automatic and automatic rifles hadn’t even been conceived. The laws must have some level of malleability to adapt with the times and the development of advanced weaponry.
One large argument I see coming out of the pro-gun demographic is that law-abiding gun-carrying citizens shouldn’t have to lose their right to own firearms, and this is where I feel one of the biggest misunderstandings arises from. The #NeverAgain movement is advocating for stricter, more stringent laws—specifically, those laws surrounding the sale of assault-style weapons. “I should be able to own a gun to protect myself and my household,” they say. That’s fair. The point is, one can protect their family just fine with a handgun. Concealed-carry? Sure. Game-hunter rifle? Okay. An AR-15 is unnecessary in civilian life, no matter what. There’s no reason why anyone not on active military duty should possess a weapon of that magnitude.
I mentioned earlier the cycle of this nation’s attitude toward mass shootings. The cycle has been disrupted following the shooting that took place in Parkland, Florida last month. I can’t go on Twitter without my timeline being filled with the rallying cries of survivors and the hashtag #NeverAgain.
I’m encouraged seeing so many young people who, along with asking “When is enough, enough?”, are taking a firm stand in advocating for gun control. It’s humbling to see them stand strong in their beliefs and continue to champion the case for gun control, even in the face of derision and name-calling from adults on the far right. The gun control movement has gained some serious momentum across the nation, and I like what I see.
I used to think that I was safe at school. Yet with every mass shooting that happens in this country, I grow more and more aware that it could happen to anyone, at any time, at any location. While I am not naïve enough to think that new gun legislation would eliminate all gun violence, we can see that it has worked to reduce it in other countries. The United States has a lot to learn from those countries. I hope that, together, we can create a future where mass shootings are a thing of the past.