The Gun Divide

It’s time we talk about gun violence.

Illustrator: Lauren Smith

Addressing the subject of gun control is tricky. It’s a topic the United States is divided on. After a horrific event like the shooting in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, many politicians shy away from politicizing gun control, claiming it is disrespectful to talk about guns so soon after such a tragedy.

When is the right time to discuss the ever-looming issue of gun violence in the U.S.? If not this mass shooting, then the next one? Or the next? How many more massacres need to happen before we discuss the logistics of preventing more gun-related fatalities?

We are a country divided. Some believe we have the right to own as many guns as we want, and some believe there should be tight restrictions on gun ownership. The argument always ends up being black and white, for or against, one side versus the other. Why are we divided when it comes to people being killed?

No matter what side you are on, I think we can all agree that preventing gun violence is a noble cause and is something that should and needs to happen. According to Pew Research, a shocking 44 percent of Americans know someone who has been shot, and in 2016, a Pew study showed that 85 percent of Americans—79 percent of Republicans and 88 percent of Democrats—favored implementing more gun control laws, especially for private gun sales, gun show sales, and background checks on buyers. This polarizing number shows that while this is a highly controversial issue, the majority of Americans, of both political parties, want to see some improvement in gun laws. Yet, this has been an issue the U.S. government has failed to act upon for over a decade now.

So, are you telling me there are absolutely no steps we can take as a country to try to prevent violence? No kind of compromise? More barriers put in place to help reduce gun violence and keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people? Something, anything, to help reduce gun-related fatalities?

And to those in Congress, our government, and those who are in a position of power to make these kinds of decisions, if you could pass a law that would even help stop even just one mass shooting at a school or music festival, wouldn’t you do that?

Since we all agree that the events at Mandalay Bay were truly horrific, then why aren’t we trying to do something to prevent history from repeating itself?

As far as gun laws are concerned, it is a constitutional right to own a gun, and trying to abolish that law is a naive notion. Yet no person ever needs to own an AR-15 or an AK-47-style weapon, let alone multiple ones, like Stephen Paddock did. They are machines, which are made to kill mass numbers of people. Nobody needs that ability these machines provide.

Is this really the way it is and how it’s always going to continue to be?

According to The Washington Post, the third leading cause of injury-related fatalities in the U.S. are from guns, a number reaching more than 36,200 deaths in 2015 alone. Furthermore, over the past nine years, about 971,000 people were shot by a gun in the U.S., estimated to have costed $25 billion dollars for hospital emergency and inpatient care.

So, are you telling me there are absolutely no steps we can take as a country to try to prevent violence?

According to The New York Times, the U.S. has more gun violence than any other country in the world. In fact, America is ranked so high on this chart that even if France had a mass shooting as deadly as the Paris attack in November of 2015 (which killed 150 people) every month, its yearly firearms death toll would still be lower than that of the United States.

Are these numbers something we as a country are okay with? Is this really the way we want it to be? The number of gun-related deaths exponentially rising each year, with no sign of stopping? From these statistics, it’s clear the U.S. has an immediate issue of gun violence. But would new gun laws actually work? The answer is yes, and we’ve seen this firsthand right in the U.S.

A recent Harvard study shows that between 2007 and 2010, states that had more laws on gun control saw far fewer gun-related death rates than states with looser gun laws, such as Texas, which is one of the top states for the amount of gun violence per year, according to City Lab.

The goal is not to take away a citizen’s right to own a firearm, but rather the goal is that maybe over the next five, 10 years it can be our county’s goal to decrease gun deaths by “x” amount. Obviously, we can’t eliminate all gun violence, but lowering its toll can make all the difference in a life.

Gun laws are needed. How many more tragedies need to happen before we finally realize this isn’t an issue to be divided on, that it’s something we need to unite on? There must be a way that the Second Amendment and gun control laws can co-exist. Helping to prevent horrors of mass shootings should be a common goal.

As the famous saying goes, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”