Following the Feb. 14 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the national debate over gun control and school safety was again ignited.
We as students currently feel fearful for our lives and for the lives of our peers. As a newspaper run by concerned students, we closely align ourselves with the call for stricter gun control. Although we understand that there are two sides to a debate in all issues, we believe that the consequences of not taking action on this issue are so great that it warrants a strong stance. We cannot accept weak compromise.
Stricter gun control would prevent mass shootings and make incidents that do happen less catastrophic. In particular, there should be a comprehensive ban of assault rifles, more thorough background checks and a ban on the sale of any firearms to individuals under 21 years of age. These are the classic examples of gun control measures, all of which have our support. To many, they may seem obvious, yet due to pushback by the National Rifle Association we still need to push for them to be passed.
The Parkland shooting was carried out by a 19-year-old male who used a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle, which he purchased legally. By federal law, one must be 21 to buy a handgun, yet semi-automatic rifles can still be purchased by anyone 18 or over.
Assault rifles have been used in many of the worst mass shootings, including the shootings that occurred in Parkland, Las Vegas and Pulse, the nightclub. Furthermore, a study in 2015 by Everytown for Gun Safety found that shootings using assault rifles or large capacity ammunition magazines resulted in a 47 percent increase in the number of people killed and a 155 percent increase in the number of people shot, when compared with other shootings.
Furthermore, states with assault rifle bans tend to have lower rates of gun violence than states without. According to Giffords Law Center’s annual Gun Law Scorecard, Florida, which does not have a ban on assault rifles, ranks 26th out of the 50 states in the country for gun death rate. Massachusetts, which does have a ban on assault rifles, ranks 50th. Out of the states with the 10 highest death rates, five are in the lowest 20th percent for strength of gun control laws, and all are in the bottom 50th percent. In addition, of all the 25 state given a ranking of F, or the lowest ranking, in gun law rank, all are in the top 50 percent of gun death rates.
Although our state has a low rate of death by gun, we still need to speak out and support an assault rifle ban to decrease mass shootings and deaths as a result of guns in other states. It is our responsibility to see through the changes we wish to see in our country, especially in the name of safety.
Individuals under 21 already are not allowed to buy a handgun, but a person 18-years-old or over is capable of purchasing a semiautomatic rifle. Some high school and college students currently have access to lethal weapons, increasing the possibility of school shootings being carried out by high school students, and enabling suicides of those under 21 using guns. This is unacceptable and change must be demanded.
More in-depth background checks, especially focusing on mental health, could better identify individuals who may be likely to commit mass shootings. Many school shooters, including the Parkland shooter, have shown a history of mental health problems, making it important to restrict access to guns without proper prerequisites.
In addition, background checks can also look deeper into each person’s history and personality, by thoroughly consulting police records and by talking to people who can vouch for or against the individual, like neighbors, family and coworkers or teachers. This will identify people who have had police complaints filed against them, as well as those who demonstrate potentially dangerous behavior patterns or temperaments, and prevent them from buying a gun.
It is also important that here at the high school students and staff actively seek out and provide support to students who seem isolated or otherwise at-risk, and that students report at-risk individuals to staff.
Stricter gun control is important to our community and our country in order to protect the lives of students, teachers and others. We need to remember that the right of children to feel safe at school is more important than anyone’s right to own a gun. All law makers needs to join in and support common-sense gun control measures that will help to protect students and other potential victims of mass shootings.