Once again, America has suffered another mass shooting. However, how much change has this amount of gun violence won?
Despite the proliferation of mass murder and our guttural opposition to it, there always seems to be room for more. The problem is so expansive that often we can only latch onto the most galling. Be it the 25 people and an unborn child in a Texan church, 58 at a Las Vegas music festival, 49 at the Pulse Nightclub, 26 at Sandy Hook Elementary, or the 12 in a Colorado movie theatre. While the shooters differ, the victims flashed on news reports differ, the grieving families differ, the same constant remains: the availability of these weapons and the laws that allow their possession.
This horrific saga continues with 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz killing at least 17 people at a high school in Florida on Valentine’s Day. 46 days into 2018, this numbers the 18th mass school shooting.
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) 14 February 2018
Gun violence is the leading cause of death in the U.S., more so than any other developed country according to the “Human Development Index.”
America comprises 4.43% of the global population, yet it has 42% of the civilian-owned guns around the world.
The most current statistics say that in 2015 alone there were 355 mass shootings – ten shy of one daily. In fact, the problem has escalated to the point where Americans are 50% more likely to die from gun violence than road incidents, drowning, stabbing, airplane crashes, animal attacks, and forces of nature – combined.
While enough is clearly enough, the law remains stagnant.
But what does it actually say? And how much of it changes in the wake of the such horror?
The Second Amendment
The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that, “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” U.S. Supreme Court rulings have since upheld that this matter is a state responsibility. However in District of Columbia v Heller , the court struck down the laws which banned handguns, confirming that the “constitutional right” to bear arms is still a federal matter.
In the wake of the increased gun violence and spurred by the assassinations of JFK, RFK, and MLK, it prohibited the sale of firearms to those who:
- Are under the age of 18
- Have criminal records
- Are mentally ill
- Were dishonorably discharged by the military
This was amended by the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act in 1993 – six years before the Columbine shooting – to mandate background checks for gun ownership.
Obama’s Package of Executive Actions, 2016
In January of 2016, President Obama issued a package of executive actions to “reduce violence and make communities safer.” This included measures which requires dealers selling firearms at gun shows or online to obtain federal licenses and a $500 million funding injection into mental health care (the leading cause behind gun violence). However the Congress failed to pass these “common-sense gun safety reforms.”
Jooyoung Lee, an associate professor of Sociology, focusing on the United States’ Gun Culture shares: “…gun control seems to be on people’s minds (…) but the absence of a large cohort of Americans who want stricter gun control laws, who are passionate enough, is one big reason why the laws don’t change.”
As of 2018, there are no U.S. federal laws banning semiautomatic assault weapons (such as the AR-15 used in this latest shooting), military-style .50 caliber rifles, handguns, or large-capacity ammunition magazines which can drastically increase lethality of gun violence.
President Trump still doesn’t support gun control.
“I can only say this. If [Willeford, responsible for the Baptist Church Shooting] didn’t have a gun, instead of 26 dead, you would have had hundreds more dead. So that’s the way I feel about it, not going to help.” Trump was quick to dismiss the massacre as a “mental health” issue, not a “gun ownership” issue.
Today’s shooting coincides with members of a gun control lobby group Gays Against Guns delivering “Bloody Valentines” to members of the Congress – urging them to amend legislation. Instead, Congressional Republicans are currently pushing for a law that will weaken gun restrictions nationwide, allowing concealed weapons to be smuggled across state lines with relative ease.
However, many citizens are beginning to realize that there is no one-size-fits-all policy which will cure gun violence from their communities. Domestic violence, bypassing background checks, mass gun importation, undiagnosed mental health issues, and extremism all feed into the larger issue.
“We’re lessening the threshold of how crazy someone needs to be to commit a mass shooting,” says Austin Eubanks, a survivor of the Columbine shooting.
Although impetus for change comes after incidents like Florida, we’ve witnessed those voices grow dim and lay forgotten, only to be resumed when another 30 families are shattered by grief. We’re again at the point of having that conversation, but you do have to wonder how long it can sustain itself.
Chris Murphy on the Florida school shooting: “Let me just note once again for my colleagues, that this happens nowhere else other than the U.S.A…. We are responsible for a level of mass atrocity that happens in this country with zero parallel anywhere else.” (via ABC) pic.twitter.com/Mqyr01r9Xh
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) 14 February 2018