A mass shooting is an incident in which several people are killed or injured as a result of gun violence. A mass shooting is often described by the Congressional Research Service as “a situation in which more than four victims are picked and killed indiscriminately, except the criminal who commits this incident.” The United States has the highest rate of mass shootings of any country in the world, owing to the country’s restrictive gun controls. It is estimated that the United States accounts for 31% of all mass shootings globally (Willingham, 2017), with over 78 mass shootings happening in the country over a 30-year period.This is a vast number as compared to Germany where only seven mass shootings had taken place in that span (Lemieux, 2017). As of fifth November, the country had experienced 307 mass shootings in 2017 alone. The mass shooting at a church in Texas, marked the 307 in this year alone (Courtland, 2017). In the year 2016, the number of shootings according to the obtained from Gun Violence Archive, there were 483 mass shootings (Gun Violence Archives, 2017).
As these shootings continue happening frequently, something must be done to ensure that no more lives are not lost in such events. These Americans die from guns, and so the gun control policies should be made stricter to ensure that guns are owned by only those who are eligible legally. This topic on gun control, however, raises a lot of controversies as many Americans believe that they have a right to own a gun for self-protection. This paper aims at looking at why these strong gun laws should be enacted.
A recent mass shooting occurred this year whereby, Stephen Paddock, shot on the crowd resulting in deaths of 58 people and 500 people injured at Mandalay Bar Resort and Casino. This was one of the deadliest mass shootings in the United States of America (Glenn, 2017). Another attack last year claimed the lives of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando and the attacker, Omar Mateen, who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq, was later killed by the police (BBC News, 2016).
A study by Adam Lankford showed that high ownership of firearms by individuals is seen to be the leading cause of mass shootings in the country. Having many people own guns, makes the country vulnerable to such cases in the future even if these owners are mentally healthy (Lankford, 2016). Some critics, however, do not agree with the argument that high gun ownership contributes to mass shootings. Gary Kleck termed the findings by Adam Lankford as “nothing more than junk science disguised as research, and never should have been published in a responsible scholarly journal” (Lott, 2016).
Gary Kleck criticizes the findings by Adam Lankford saying that Adam’s conclusions are not supported by enough evidence that ownership of guns by people contribute to mass shootings. Lack of proper data and details to help Adams findings, therefore, manipulates the results that favor the relationship between mass shootings and gun ownership.
Mass shootings cannot be eliminated, however; they can be controlled by enacting strong laws on gun acquisitions. The former President of the United States, Barrack Obama, recurrently called for strict rules on gun-safety while addressing the issue mass shootings during his eight-year presidency. “The country will have to reckon that this type of mass action does not happen in other developed countries,” he said this after the Charleston church shooting.
Gun control laws that can be enacted include; restricting the sale of rifles to individuals with violence and crime history, carrying out background checks on people who want to purchase the guns. Also strengthening the sentence on people found in the acquisition of firearms illegally, and raising a ban on semi-automatic rifles (Jowit, 2016).
The sale of guns should be restricted to any individual with a history of violence or crime. People, who have had a history of committing a crime, are capable of doing so again. By making deadly weapons available to such people would, therefore, be a risk to the other people around them. Such people include; people convicted of domestic violence crimes, people who were convicted of crimes punishable with more than one year, substance abusers and fugitives.
Background checks should be done on gun purchasers; background checks are checks done on someone when he or she wants to acquire a firearm through a Federal Firearms Licensee. The background checks would help identify whether the person who wishes to purchase the gun is a fugitive, has been diagnosed mentally ill, has been discharged from the military dishonorably, is an addict, or is residing in the US illegally. If one is found to have any of those after the background check, he or she should not be allowed to purchase any rifle.
The sentences on people found to be possessing firearms illegally should also be strengthened. Illegal possession of weapons is highly correlated with the possibility of committing murder. Hence, unlawful possession of weapons should be treated as a serious crime. By strengthening the jail term, many people will avoid acquiring guns through illegal means as they will fear the jail term awaiting them. This way, mass shooting can be reduced.
The police department and the US military should invest in smart guns; smart guns contain a technological feature which helps limit their operations in that; one cannot fire without a pin, a device in proximity or a fingerprint. These features help ensure that these weapons are less vulnerable to theft.
Semi-automatic weapons should be banned. When the Federal government raised a ten-year ban on semi-automatic weapons, the death toll from the mass shooting was reduced. During this period of the ban, there were 15 mass shootings with only 96 deaths. Ten years later after the ban expired and was not renewed, there were 35 mass shootings with the death toll rising to 195 (Sachs, 2017). These weapons should, therefore, be banned as they place the public at risk of being shot by people armed with semi-automatic weapons.
Justifying Solution to Possible Objections
There have been several objections that by setting up strict laws on gun possession, mass shootings would be reduced. Some of those who object, identify a mass shooter as a person who is ready to give up his life, such a person is very motivated to commit such a crime and make it a defining event of his life even if it means ending his life. In one of the mass shootings, the shooters, Syed Rizwan and Tashfeen Malik were found to be having more than 4500 rounds of ammunition and several pipe bombs in their home. This shows that they were determined to kill, and even if strict gun laws were enacted, legislation could not help prevent such mass shootings (Hwang, 2015).
Most of the mass shooters use firearms that they have acquired legally. Like in the Las Vegas tragedy that left at least 58 people dead, the killer Stephen Paddock, used his weapon for the attack and had acquired this rifle legally. This, therefore, makes it hard for the smart guns to play a role in reducing the mass shootings because the technology in the firearms helps the individual to be able to control his or her rifle.
The argument that people should be allowed to own guns for personal safety also contradicts the control of gun possession as a measure to curb mass shooting. High ownership of firearms does not help limit the number of gun deaths but instead plays a part in increasing the deaths. This is because only a few numbers of people can use the guns successfully for self-defense, many people if placed in an active shooter situation end up getting themselves killed even though they were armed.
There are also critics who argue that, by controlling gun possession, mass shootings cannot be prevented since illegal ownership of firearms is not the only factor that leads to mass shooting. There are other factors like; desire for fame, poverty, unemployment incarceration race and gender. And by just dealing with the gun issue, mass shootings cannot be stopped.
However, from the past gun violence cases, it is evident that guns increase the interactions between people regarding bar fights, suicidal thoughts and these, in turn, lead to the rise of the number of shootings in the country. The Brady Campaign to prevent gun violence concluded that each day, 98 people die from gun violence and the areas affected are those that have more relaxed laws on right to carry a gun (Timm, 2017).
Those who acquire the firearms will be required to meet specific standards, and this will help ensure that a person who owns a gun is legally eligible to own one and in case of any issue surrounding the usage of the weapon he or she will be answerable to the law. These laws will make it hard for the dangerously mentally ill, the criminals and even the terrorists to acquire firearms that can use to harm citizens.
Australia enacted these laws after the worst mass shooting took place in the country and it has been successful. This success story is evident because from when the ban was raised in Australia, the state has not suffered any more mass shootings and also there is a notable decrease in the number of firearm suicides. Removing firearms from civilians, could, therefore, be the best way to deal with the increased number of mass shootings in the United States of America as it has applied in other countries (Sharman, 2017).
It is evident that mass shooting is a serious issue in the United States that needs to be dealt with severely as the lives of many innocent citizens are lost in such occurrences. One of the main reasons as to why the United States leads in the number of mass shootings as compared to the rest of the countries is because it has the most relaxed laws when it comes to guns. Acquisition of firearms illegally puts the citizens at risk of attacks by unknown people.
Strict measures to control gun ownership should be applied to ensure that people who are prohibited from owning these firearms do not come into contact with them and this will significantly help in reducing the number of mass shootings in the country.
BBC News. (2016, June 14). Orlando gay nightclub shooting. BBC News.
Courtland, J. (2017, November). 307 Mass shootings have occurred in the US so far in 2017. ABC15Arizona. http://www.gunviolencearchive.org/reports/mass-shooting
Glenn, C. J. P. (2017, November). Who is Stephen Paddock? USA Today
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Lemieux, F. (2017, October 05). Six things to know about America shootings. Epoch Times
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Sachs, J. (2017, October 03). Ban semi-automatic assault weapons and save lives. The United States of America.
Sharman, J. (2017). How murder and suicide figures plummeted in Australia after gun control laws were introduced. Independent.
Timm, J. C. (2017). No more guns won’t prevent shootings. NBC News.
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