How many will die before the government limits gun rights?

The pandemic may be nearing its end, but gun violence is not

Michael Sicoli, Opinion Editor

Returning to normalcy should be a welcome sight. We aren’t quite there, but the vaccine rollout is underway. President Joe Biden is hoping to have 200 million Americans vaccinated within his first 100 days — looking to be a soon completed mission as we enter day 64 with over 145 million vaccines distributed as of publication.

But what does a return to normalcy actually mean? Well, it means a rebound to this country’s most infamous pastime — mass shootings.

Of course, this isn’t anything new. In 2020, nearly 20,000 Americans died as a result of gun violence, including nearly 300 children, according to the Gun Violence Archive. The total death number was higher than any year in at least two decades, and the 50% more children died compared to 2019. Over 24,000 more Americans committed suicide using a gun.

Of all the abnormal things 2020 offered, this stayed the same.

Infographic by Connor Lawless

Gun control is a huge issue in this country that was utterly dismissed in 2020 due to COVID-19. Media companies didn’t cover it extensively because of the greater attention that the pandemic demanded. There wasn’t a mass shooting past Sept. 7, and before that, COVID-19 was ripping the country apart at a higher rate.

As the United States begins to normalize, the mass shootings came back. In Atlanta, Georgia, a shooter killed eight people on March 16. The shooter bought a 9 mm handgun and began shooting hours later. Six days later, another shooter killed 10 people in Boulder, Colorado at a grocery store, courtesy of an AR-15.

An AR-15-style gun has been the weapon of choice for mass shootings for years. The 2017 mass shooting at the Las Vegas Strip resulted in 61 deaths. The 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting left 26 people dead — 20 children and six educators. A shooter at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue killed 11 people in 2018.

This was all courtesy of AR-15-style weapons.

I understand the history of our country, and the importance of the Second Amendment. Guns have a special place in American culture and removing them outright would be unconstitutional.

However, the thing about amendments is that they can be amended. Making adjustments and controlling certain guns is well within the rights and ethics of elected officials.

If AR-15-style weapons are constantly being used, why not limit their availability? People can buy assault weapons for around $500 — incredibly cheap for a weapon of its caliber. They’re infamously known for their inexpensive price tag.

The desire to feel secure and safeguard your home are viable concerns. But too many take the guns they own to kill others rather than protect themselves. Harvard University’s David Hemenway and Sara J. Solnick analyzed the National Crime Victimization Survey and found that from 2007 to 2011, only 0.9% of gun owners used their firearm to protect themselves from a crime.

The 2018 March for Our Lives was held in response to the Parkland High School shooting where a shooter with a history of mental illness shot 17 people. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The best and only argument to own an AR-15 is that “it’s cool.” And yeah, it might be fun to use in a controlled environment. But that’s what firing ranges are for, where guns can be rented out to try and enjoy.

Implementing a waiting period across the country is another important step that should be taken. It serves as a cool-down timer to prevent immediate violence following the purchase of a weapon. It can serve as a shield against impulsive actions that shootings can be.

Many people argue that “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Mental health has been a huge issue in this country for the longest time, and it’s only gotten worse. Nearly one in five Americans suffer from a mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. When buying from a licensed gun shop, it is mandatory to run the buyer through the criminal background system, but federal law doesn’t require mental health checks as a part of the system.

That’s only for licensed gun shops. Unlicensed gun owners sell through classified ads, at gun conventions or simply at a yard sale. No background check can account for those purchases.

And so, I’m waiting. Eventually there will be another school shooting akin to the 2018 Parkland High School shooting where 17 people were killed, 14 of which were students. I still remember how rattled I was as a high schooler. Researching this again still gives me chills. I can’t get that feeling out of my head years later, when I actually rejoice that my brothers and I are out of that confined school setting.

I know the odds are minimal. But they sure as hell aren’t zero, and there aren’t enough responsible gun owners for me to feel safe.

Change doesn’t come until it’s too late. As terrible as it sounds, the blood of each of those victims only slightly greased the government’s wheels to achieve change. And when more blood flows to get the gears moving to achieve the bare minimum, I’ll sit and remember this moment when nothing meaningful will happen.