The American school shooting epidemic continued with three separate shootings between Jan. 9 to Jan. 17. Thursday, Jan. 9, a 17-year-old was wounded in Jackson, Tennessee. Tuesday,Jan. 14, a seventh-grader shot and injured two classmates at a middle school in New Mexico. Friday, Jan. 17, two students were shot and injured by two boys at a high school in Philadelphia.
These tragedies are impossible to make sense of in this modern and relatively prosperous age. At the same time that exponential technological growth has increased the life expectancy of Americans to an unprecedented number, such advances are threatened to be offset by the increasing frequency of shooting massacres. The most devastating military technology ever invented has now been used time and time again in this country (and others such as Norway) to slaughter groups of unsuspecting innocents. Ever since the unspeakable horror that occurred at an elementary school in Newtown, CT, the debate over gun control laws has become a paramount political topic.
Those who support keeping gun laws the way they are say that only good guys with guns stop the bad guys with guns. Those who support strengthening gun control laws say that this idea has not worked in any of these incidents. And while both sides have a point, the influx in public shootings in the past decade has made the latter camp’s point of view one that must be considered more closely. In light of the facts, the old system has not been working, and change is needed to curb the likelihood that such tragedies will keep occurring.
First, the facts must be considered. Has there been an increase in these types of shootings in the past decade? Yes. Since the Columbine school shooting in 1999, there have been more mass shootings not related to gang violence in the U.S. than in the entire last century (this statistic applies to gang shootings as well, but that is for another discussion). While the root of all these incidents may lie in mental health, it is clear that modern gun technology is making it much easier to commit violence on such a scale.
Critics of stricter gun control say that guns were just as available, if not more so, in previous decades. In the 1950s, in most states, an adult could carry a rifle on a city bus without causing so much as a worried glance. Yet the difference between now and then is that in the 1950s, unless someone was in the mob, it was probably incredibly difficult for the average person to get access to a Thompson sub-machine gun — back then the only fully automatic rifle with clips of 30 or more rounds.
Today it is easy to find a gun store in almost every town that sells dozens of varieties of automatic and semi automatic rifles with multiple 30 round clips. Only Connecticut has really begun to crack down on clips larger than 10 rounds being sold in stores. The power and efficiency of today’s weapons means that we can no longer do things as we did decades ago. As technology evolves, so must our laws.
Obviously, there are millions of legal and illegal gun owners who do not go out committing massacres on a daily basis. Nevertheless, there are mentally ill people who are indistinguishable from these normal gun owners when they purchase guns; until they use them on innocent people. The first thing citizens can do to ensure that guns do not fall into the wrong hands is to establish psychological evaluations for people attempting to buy them in every state. Connecticut and other liberal states have already put even stricter measures in place, but there must be overriding federal restrictions established for states that have not yet done so. It is true that this will make the process of legally obtaining guns much longer and more difficult. Many Second Amendment activists will raise qualms over this, but it is a reasonable compromise that must be made for the sake of keeping innocent citizens safe and protecting schools against further shootings.
By: Connor Jetta
(Editor’s update: This article originally listed the Colorado shooting as having taken place on Jan. 13, instead of Dec. 13. Our sincere apologies to the readers).