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In Support of Lives

When will Washington care about our safety?

Talia+Protos%2C+Class+of+2018%2C+Opinion+columnist.
Talia Protos, Class of 2018, Opinion columnist.

Talia Protos, Class of 2018, Opinion columnist.

Christina Papageorgiou

Christina Papageorgiou

Talia Protos, Class of 2018, Opinion columnist.

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On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened fire on their classmates at Columbine High. Killing thirteen students and wounding two dozen more, the Columbine shooters marked the beginning of an era of extreme gun violence in the United States. On October 1st of this year, a shooter killed 58 people and wounded 546 in the largest mass shooting this country has ever seen.

As time has passed, the nation has become more accustomed and desensitized to the extreme violence and destruction of mass shootings, now a common reality more so than a rarity. The Washington Post estimates that 948 people have been victims of 131 mass shootings (shootings in which gun violence has resulted in at least four fatalities) since 1966. Compared to Canada, the U.S. has more than 5 times the number of gun homicides per capita.

In light of these statistics, it is clear that the U.S. is lacking in legislation to regulate guns in comparison to its neighboring nations. Here is a schism: on one side proponents of new legislation, and on the other, staunch protectors of the Second Amendment. The latter, an argument supported by the National Rifle Association (NRA), denies regulation of firearms in supposed favor of maintaining the constitutional rights of American citizens.

The NRA has gone beyond rationality and morality to defend these rights. In the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting on December 14, 2012, where 20 children and 6 adults were wounded or killed at an elementary school in Connecticut, the NRA President Wayne LaPierre called for the widespread introduction of firearms into school buildings for protection purposes. As reported by the Washington Post, LaPierre claimed that, “we care about our president, so we protect him with armed Secret Service agents. Members of Congress work in offices surrounded by Capitol Police officers. Yet, when it comes to … our children, we as a society leave them every day utterly defenseless.”

While this reasoning seems appealing and makes sense upon first glance, LaPierre fails to understand the central belief of those in favor of firearm regulations – that even the police and those who protect us hold too much power with guns in their hands. He rationalizes his perspective by claiming that we actively want to leave our children in danger, but the truth is, we want to create a world where our children are safer because there is less opportunity for dangerous people to risk the lives of our loved ones. We should not have to arm ourselves to feel protected.

The Washington Post estimates that 948 people have been victims of 131 mass shootings (shootings in which gun violence has resulted in at least four fatalities) since 1966. Compared to Canada, the U.S. has more than 5 times the number of gun homicides per capita.

Following the tragedy in Las Vegas, responses by the Executive Office and Republicans in Congress have yet again been disappointing and negligent at best. On October 4, 2017, GOP House members expressed interest in possibly banning bump stocks, the modification that the Vegas shooter used to make his rifles automatic weapons. In the past, Republicans have blocked legislation banning people on the terror watch list from buying guns (after the Orlando shooting), expansion of background checks for anyone purchasing a firearm (after the Sandy Hook shooting), limiting size of magazines (after the Virginia Tech shooting), and many more regulatory efforts. While willingness from Republicans to create new gun legislation is novel, the fact is that regulating bump stock likely will not have have any bearing on the violence inflicted by the next American mass shooter.

Australia is often cited as one of the models that our country should study in order to craft reasonable policies around firearms. While Australia’s action against gun violence – in which its government moved unanimously to require extensive background checks, require a reason for purchase from buyers, and place many more regulatory laws – is inspiring, this could likely never happen in the United States.

In times where tragedies could have catalyzed a bipartisan effort to protect our citizens, the constitutional right to bear arms has divided the nation straight down the middle. The Second Amendment sets our country apart from countless others time and time again.

Inflexibility from Second Amendment supporters is patriotic, but ultimately results in the loss of hundreds of American lives and creates no room for solutions to this pressing issue.

In order for change to occur, our representatives need to have discussions and to be open to working together and finding compromise. We, as citizens, need to vocalize our opinions and ensure that our senators and congresspeople know what our communities want – safety.

To voice your opinion, contact your representatives in Congress. Find their contact information at https://callyourrep.co/

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