DEANA KAJMAKOVIC & HALEY ARMSTRONG
In 1787, with the fate of a newborn country in their hands, our founding fathers wrote the Constitution of the United States – and later the Bill of Rights – to guarantee the American people the liberties which they deemed necessary.
Among these rights was the Second Amendment, warranting citizens’ freedom to keep and bear arms, in response to the unlawful stripping of guns that the British committed against the colonists of their guns in the years preceding the American Revolution. In the context of the Bill of Rights’ establishment in 1791, the Second Amendment was inspired by both the past oppression at the hands of the British Red Coats and the American principle of the right to life and liberty, for which many viewed the possession of arms essential. Our founding fathers wanted to give every white male the right to own a gun, but only for that specific purpose: to be able to ward off the British.
That was 230 years ago. Imagine trying to write gun laws today to be put in place in the year 2247.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, America has seen over 48,000 gun-related incidents in 2017 alone. The sad truth is that there is no active effort to combat this issue. In highly publicized shootings, politicians and news anchors are quick to find “justifiable” reasons behind these horrific acts – such as blaming the shooter’s race or faith – pushing the issue of gun control aside until the next tragic event happens.
This strategy seemed to work well enough for defenders of gun rights until they were confronted with the heart-breaking Las Vegas shooting, which is regarded as the worst mass-shooting in modern American history with a death toll of 59 and an estimated 527 injuries. The shooter, Steven Paddock, was a 64-year-old white male with no criminal record or history of mental differences. As police struggled to find a motive behind the massacre he committed, Americans around the country began calling for the real issue to be addressed: Why would a single man be allowed to own upwards of 50 firearms?
In most countries around the world, such a possibility is inconceivable. Well-developed nations like Australia and Japan have taken huge steps towards limiting gun-related violence by putting strict policies on the purchase and use of firearms. After a gunman killed 35 people in the Port Arthur shooting of 1999, Australia’s prime minister immediately led the government to enact sweeping gun-control measures that have been incredibly successful ever since. Along with prohibiting private gun sales and cracking down on the registration of all weapons for reasons more genuine than “self-defense,” the Australian government encouraged a massive buyback of more than one-fifth of firearms in circulation around the nation.
To acquire a gun in Japan, one has to take a sophisticated shooting range class before passing a police and hospital-issued drug test, mental health test, and rigorous background check. Any hint of a past felony or affiliation with criminal or extremist groups results in immediate disqualification from the process. One can only become a legal gun owner in Japan after passing all of these screenings, after which they must regularly provide the police with updated information on the location of their firearms and ammunition.
Japan has an average of only ten gun-related homicides per year. Australia has not had a single mass shooting since 1999. In this year alone, the United States has seen over 12,000 lives lost at the hands of firearms and 281 mass shootings.
In 2017, we are no longer lion-hearted patriots fighting for our natural rights under the suffocating oppression of the British crown. We are one of the strongest, most well-developed countries in the world, yet we are plagued by the endless loss of American lives due to our lack of gun control. The Second Amendment was written to give the American people the equipment they needed to stand up to the “oppressor.” Yet guns plague our country today in the absence of an overpowering force and seem to solely serve to rob Americans of their lives. Until common sense gun laws are passed, our country will continue to–quite literally – shoot itself in the foot.