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The U.S. has a gun problem

Artist+Cyan+Clements+depicts+a+silhouette+with+a+target+on+its+chest+
Cyan Clements
Artist Cyan Clements depicts a silhouette with a target on its chest

Everyone at Gloucester High School has sat through an ALICE drill. Everyone has felt the unease in the bottom of your stomach, even though you know it’s not real. Everyone has wondered what they would do if it actually were real. We’ve all wondered where we’d hide, where we’d run, where we’d meet our friends. These are not things we should have grown up thinking about. We should not have to worry about ourselves or our loved ones.

Everyone has someone they care about. Someone they look forward to seeing, someone they love. That person could be your mom, your dad, your sibling, or your best friend. You probably have many,  many people who mean so much to you, that losing them would be an unimaginable pain. Throughout the country, more and more people, just like us, have realized that the unimaginable pain has become a very imaginable, and very personal, reality. 

Each year, 39,000 people die because of gun violence in the United States. Between 2 percent and 7 percent of all injuries treated at U.S pediatric centers are gun-related. 2,842 people have died in mass shootings since 2006. And in 2023, there was one mass shooting a week. These numbers are staggering, and honestly, very frightening. Compared to countries with strict gun regulations like Australia or Japan, the United States is a war zone. Our government and its citizens, you included, are responsible and therefore have the duty to take immediate action to strengthen laws aimed at controlling ownership, and the availability of firearms.

One action our country must take to prevent gun violence is to create a national gun registry. Experts say that there are currently 494 million firearms circulating in the US, more than its population of 332 million. With such a large number of weapons in our country, it only makes sense for there to be a database with detailed records on all of them. This would help police to monitor firearm usage, prevent the wrong people getting their hands on a gun, and make it easier for gun owners to check and see if their gun is still legal. 

In comparing Australia’s response to a deadly shooting with the United States’, there is a clear difference. In 1996, Martin Bryant shot and killed 35 people and wounded 23 during the Port Arthur shooting, the worst in Australia’s recent history. This led to strict gun reform in the country. Now, there is a public database where you can find any legally registered guns in the country. In July 2021, Australia implemented a permanent gun amnesty program, where people can anonymously surrender firearms to police. This significantly lowered the gun violence death rates.

In the US, the deadliest mass shooting perpetrated by an individual was the 2017 Las Vegas shooting. The gunman took the lives of 60 and injured at least 413 people who were attending the Route 91 Harvest music festival. In response to this tragic event, many Congressional Democrats and some Republicans wanted to ban bump stocks, an attachment that speeds up shooting. Now, more than 5 years later, bump stocks are only illegal in 13 states, and the US still doesn’t have a gun registry. Creating one now could save so many lives, especially as gun violence casualties rise. 

We’ve been getting more and more horrific news of school shootings. We get this news in many ways, always brutal no matter the medium. What matters is that we see mothers talking about the last time they saw their children, hear about brave teachers who gave their lives to protect students, and listen to the stories of 11 year olds who watched their best friends die at the hands of someone they had never met. At the core of all these high profile tragedies is the legality of semi-automatic guns. It’s becoming obvious that the continued legality of these dangerous weapons needs to change fast. 

The AR-15 gun has been used by the US military in every conflict since Vietnam. These guns are readily available for civilians to purchase in 30 states. Because of lax laws, 1 in 20 American adults own this dangerous weapon. When the ability to own firearms leads to innocent children being harmed, the laws need to change. The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter had three guns when he murdered 20 kids and 6 adults in 2012. One of those guns was a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle, which is semi-automatic. The Parkland and Uvalde school shooters also used semi-automatic rifles.

The list of school shootings caused by AR-15s or similar guns goes on and on. So, why do we need a weapon designed by the military, for the military, with the power to do so much harm, available in more than half the country? The answer is that we don’t. The United States is not at war with itself. We are not soldiers. There is no logical reason for a weapon that can kill 45 people within a minute to be owned by citizens. There is no logical reason that political leaders should encourage the purchase of murder weapons. There is no logical reason that we grow up hearing the stories of victims, the stories of shooters, or the stories of the families who will be forever shattered by the effects of semi-automatic guns. Yet as obvious as the solutions seem, there are plenty of opponents to stricter gun laws. 

Many pro-gun Americans say that their right to bear arms is forever protected by the constitution. Though the 2nd amendment is constantly subject to different interpretations, it was certainly not created to protect weapons of war used to murder innocent people. That being said, I believe that handguns are a weapon that we could never get rid of, and trying to do so would be useless. Even if we put a complete ban on handguns, they inevitably would still be imported illegally, potentially expanding and benefiting criminal activity. Handguns are also proven to reduce the risk of property loss in certain home invasion cases. However, laws pertaining to these weapons need to be much stricter.

A nationwide gun reform project should be implemented as soon as possible. Such a project would strengthen many current gun ownership laws, including the training gun owners are required to receive, the extensive background checks necessary, and the specific situations in which citizens could use a firearm in the case of self defense. Most US states currently allow concealed carry of a gun without a permit that would involve some form of training in order to get. In addition, 28 states and the territory of Puerto Rico allow people to kill an aggressor without trying to retreat first, a recipe for more violence. By strengthening handgun laws, we can improve safety for the nation as a whole. 

Our constitution is the basis of our nation and an inspiration for many other countries. The United States is considered a world leader in almost everything. Communities around the world are struggling with poverty, war, and famine. But we can’t tell others what to do when we can’t even fix problems here at home. To be the world leader we are expected to be, it is necessary for us to take swift action. In light of the tragic Kansas City shooting at the Chiefs Super Bowl rally yesterday, this topic becomes even more relevant.

In the coming weeks, this discussion will be sparked once again, this debate will come back. This time we have to follow through with our ideas. We have to make this the last tragic shooting we hear about. We have to implement a countrywide gun reform program that would create a gun registry, impose a wide ban on automatic and semi-automatic rifles, and strengthen handgun laws, all with the purpose of protecting the people you love, protecting the people you look forward to seeing, and protecting the people who you cannot lose. 

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About the Contributor
Cyan Clements, Staff Writer
Cyan Clements is a senior at GHS and is a second year writer for The Gillnetter. She is a honors student and takes pride in being the resident artist for the newspaper. Outside of school, Cyan enjoys drawing, trying new hobbies, and spending time with friends and family. She also enjoys collecting various different things, such as albums and dolls. You can contact her at [email protected]

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  • D

    de Thier GenevièveFeb 17, 2024 at 11:58 am

    Bravo Ava pour cette courageuse prise de position avec un énoncé clair et construit et surtout une demande formelle et insistante de reprendre la discussion sur ce point précis de la constitution. Gigi

    Reply
  • K

    Karen HarrisonFeb 15, 2024 at 3:55 pm

    Thank you for this important piece and also for your concrete proposed solutions. They seem so obvious and yet…

    Reply