This archived article was written by: Scott Froehlich
In the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, which killed 59 people and injured over 500, again rekindled a heated debate over gun control in the United States. As is the case after every mass shooting, there are conversations over what kind of restrictions and regulations should be put on guns and gun owners, and what kinds of guns people should, and should not, have access to. Unfortunately, misinformation, special interest groups and partisan politics keep gun laws relatively untouched.
One of the biggest topics in recent years has been regarding the restrictions placed on the mentally ill. In 2012, the Obama administration drafted a rule that would require the Social Security Administration to turn over the records of those who were on the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The belief behind the rule was that if those with serious mental illnesses were not able to handle their affairs, they wouldn’t be capable of handling firearms. February 2017, President Trump repealed this rule, furthering the war between those in favor of and those against extensive gun control.
Regardless who is restricted from guns, or not, the effects of gun violence are staggering. According to multiple researches, guns killed more people in the U.S. from 2001 to 2013 than AIDS, illegal drug overdoses, wars and terrorism combined (IIHC, icasualties, CDC/WISQSRS). Gun violence amongst youth is just as alarming. In 2014 alone, 4,300 young people from the ages of 10 to 24 were victims of homicide, which amounts to 12 deaths per day. That same year, 13,575 were injured by guns.
While homicides, suicide and other gun-related deaths are a major issue in the U.S., the steady rise in mass shootings cause a great deal of deaths in short spans of time.
Since the 1980s, the occurrence of mass shootings has spiked at an alarming rate. During the ‘80s, the amount of mass shootings never surpassed five per year, while the rate in the 1990s and 2000s got as high as 10-per year. In the years after 2011, the occurrences of mass shootings went through the roof, with 42-mass shootings recorded in 2015 according to the Stanford Geospatial Center in June 2015.
These alarming facts and figures begs the question, what actions can Congress, and other powers that be, take to curb this violence?
A trend that has had a hand in stalling the conversation on gun control and regulation is the ever-increasing involvement the National Rifle Association in the political process. The NRA spent $203.2 million on political-related activities between the years of 1998 and 2016. Included in this spending were donations directly to candidates, contributions to political action committees (otherwise known as PACs), lobbying and independent expenditures.
This political influence makes it nearly impossible to pass any significant common-sense gun legislation, and almost guarantees that any such bills dies on the Senate or House floors. As Jimmy Kimmel quipped on his late-night show, the NRA seems to have a certain part of the Republicans’ anatomy in a money clip.
Unfortunately, when the topic of gun control comes up among regular citizens, there is a corner of the population that gets extremely defensive. The fear that the government is “coming to take our guns” clouds the rationale that is necessary to come to a compromise, which is often reached at the polls. The truth is, no one is trying to take anyone’s guns and the need for practical gun law reform is as dire as it has ever been.
That being said, the reality is that there is not as big a divide between voters regarding gun reform as there is in Washington. According to a Quinnipiac University poll conducted last week, 60 percent of people in a bipartisan sample support stricter gun laws, 73 percent of the same group polled said they’d support a ban on gun modifications, such as the one that the Las Vegas shooter used to make his AR-15 semi-automatic mimic a fully automatic machine gun.
While there will never likely be a catchall set of gun laws that appeases every citizen and gun proponent, the power is in the hands of the people to ensure that reasonable actions are taken. It is the civic duty of all registered voters to choose the politicians that will do the right thing by addressing the need for gun laws that protect the American people, as well as the Second Amendment.
Although many people say that this is a bad time to “politicize” this event, after the tragedy in Las Vegas, it is as good as time as ever to take action now to prevent similar attacks to happen again. We can’t afford to let time pass us by once again, only to address the issue after another mass murder takes place.