Why We Need Gun Reform | Teen Ink

Why We Need Gun Reform

March 6, 2023
By gabs_w SILVER, Portland, Oregon
gabs_w SILVER, Portland, Oregon
9 articles 0 photos 90 comments

On May 24th, 2022, a gunman entered a school in Uvalde, Texas, and killed 21 people—19 fourth graders and two teachers. A few days before, a white supremacist drove to a grocery school in Buffalo and killed 10 Black people shopping for groceries. Most of them were elderly. Across the nation, people are reeling in the wake of these and other tragedies; and they haven't been the first of their kind. Ours is a nation that faces the stark reality of gun violence, and there are differing opinions on how to deal with this reality. This argument  has severely divided our country. The issue of gun control — and how much should be exerted— has become a political minefield. On one side, there is the belief that the right to own and use guns is a necessary right, and an integral part of our freedoms as Americans. On the other is the opinion that gun control is imperative. So what do we do? 

The beliefs that we deserve the right to bear arms and to defend ourselves, and the opinion that people are the real issue behind gun violence are all valid points. I respect these beliefs and the people who hold them. However, I firmly believe that we need to stop prioritizing guns and instead protect people. 

Does this mean we need to abolish the 2nd Amendment? Is even limiting gun use a desecration of our rights? Well, we need to take it in context. When this amendment was written in 1791, firearms were an integral part of everyday life. The newly formed country of America needed them: to hunt for food and defend themselves against wild animals. But now, in our age of the armed forces and grocery stores, guns are not necessary for survival. Instead, they’re used for sport. In fact, less than one percent of Americans have actually used a gun in self defense (NPR)— which the pro-gun side argues is the primary purpose of firearms. What about our “right to keep and bear arms”? Can we regulate this right and still respect our constitution? We need to take into consideration the fact that we all have rights — the rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. These rights apply to everyone. So when one eighteen-year-old’s “right to keep and bear arms” cancels out a fourth-grader’s right to life, it becomes a serious issue. If, by enacting gun control, we’re protecting the rights of everyone, not just the NRA, not just gun owners, but everyone, we are still respecting the constitution.   

First, we have to stop treating gun control as a political issue. It is not. It’s a human issue. In 2020, firearm-related incidents surpassed auto accidents and  became the leading cause of death for children. (NPR). This shows just how dangerous guns really are — especially to the most vulnerable people in our nation, the people who our future rests on. Our children should not inherit a world fraught with gun violence. Their lives shouldn’t be cut short by shootings. They should be able to go to school without being afraid. But this seems to be where we are heading. There have been 246 mass shootings — shootings with several deaths or injuries — so far this year (2022). (CNN)  Gun violence has been on the rise in America. How long will it take for us to choose a different course of action then the one we have already been taking? How many more people will die before we do something? 

So what do we do? We can start by implementing background checks, which make sure guns are not falling into the hands of criminals, people with severe mental health issues, or those who are known to behave irresponsibly with guns. According to Giffords Law Center, when background checks are required and enforced properly, they do help keep people safe: “Since the federal background check requirement was adopted in 1994, over three million people legally prohibited from possessing a gun have been stopped from purchasing a gun or denied a permit.” The article goes on to add that, when background checks are not properly enforced, gun buyers can exploit a major loophole in our laws. “Unlicensed sellers — people who sell guns online or at gun shows. . .can transfer firearms without having any background check whatsoever.” Around 80% of all gun purchases are through an unlicensed seller who is not required to perform a background check. Many shooters failed their background checks at licensed gun stores, and then turned to unlicensed dealers. (GiffordsLaw). This is a loophole that has proven deadly. The argument against background checks is that they don’t stop criminals. According to the above statistic, they have and they continue to do so. But they don’t stop criminals who buy them from unlicensed dealers. What if every place where guns could be bought required a background check? While this wouldn’t get rid of gun violence entirely, it would likely significantly reduce it. 

Something else we can do to reduce gun violence is to limit the purchase of certain types of weapons; for example, the AR-15. This rifle is a military-grade; it’s not designed for defense or hunting. It’s designed to kill people. “The AR-15, like its military version, is designed to kill people quickly and in large numbers,” said NPR. It's also the weapon that the Uvalde gunman used. Why does the average citizen need to own this kind of gun? According to NPR, “In 1994 President Bill Clinton signed an assault-weapons ban, which banned the AR-15 and other semiautomatic rifles. After its ban, mass shootings were down in the decade that followed [the signing].” However, this ban expired in 2004 and was never renewed. Since then, shootings have been on the rise. 

In other countries, it only took one or two mass shootings to spur gun reform. According to ABC News, “mass shootings have. . .prompted Switzerland, New Zealand, . . . Canadal and the United Kingdom, to quickly enact gun reforms. These measures have ranged from bans on semiautomatic firearms to longer purchase waiting periods to stricter background checks and national registry requirements.” The article goes on to add that in the US, where guns are readily accessible, “the firearm death rate was nearly four times that of Switzerland, five times that of Canada, over ten times that of Australia, and thirty-five times that of the United Kingdom.” (ABC News). These numbers do not lie. A common argument from the pro-gun side is that gun reforms don’t work. But these countries have implemented them, and they have and continue to work. What if we followed their lead and were the next country to enact gun control? 

We are a nation at a turning point. We can enact gun reforms — or continue as we are. But what if we do make a change? What would it mean for our future? What if fourth-graders could go to school without being afraid, or people could shop at their local grocery store without wondering if they’ll be targeted? What if our children can inherit a country where every day does not bring news of another shooting? Can we do this? It can be as simple as making sure everyone who deals in guns is required to give background checks, or abolishing weapons that are literally designed to bring about death. By enacting these changes and, like the countries before us, stamping out gun violence, we can positively bring about change. Change that will help make our nation a safe place — for us and the generations to come. 

The author's comments:

In early 2022, I heard the news about the Uvalde shootings — I remember crying and thinking: Why dont we do something? What’s stopping us? Why do we care more about guns than kids lives? My school had a persuasive essay project coming up, and I scrapped whatever idea I had previously to write this. This issue is so important — and sadly, shootings are still as common, if not more, as when I wrote this essay a year ago. So let’s take action — so our friends, neighbors, grandparents, siblings, and future children don’t have to live in fear. 

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