It seems like at least once every six months, when you turn on the television or check social media, you find out another deathly shooting has occured on American soil.
The most recent was the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, and just like most shootings that take place in America, it started the debate on gun control all over again.
I’m no different than your average American; I join in on the debate with my family members. Without failure, these debates usually end up in an argument, with my sister telling me that America’s laws must change, and myself telling her it’s our second amendment right to own guns and any new laws won’t change a thing.
I just want to clear the air from the get go – I personally do not own any firearms, but I do believe it is an American right to own them if you so choose. I’ve stood by this stance for many years, but even I have to admit that the recent massacres have made me start to wonder if gun laws really do need to change.
But can these solutions actually work in America?
The argument I hear the most is that America needs to adopt the strategy of Australia. In April of 1996, 35 people were killed in what is now known as the Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania. According to Katie Beck of BBC News, after the Port Arthur massacre John Howard, the Australian Prime Minister at the time, enacted a law banning all semi-automatic rifles and shotguns. All six Australian states agreed to this law in less than two weeks.
In the past 21 years, nearly a third of Australia’s guns have been handed over, and their homicide rates have dropped drastically. In 1996, Australia recorded 69 gun related homicides (not including the Port Arthur massacre), while in 2012 Australia had only 30 gun homicides. This according to Beck’s article, “Are Australia’s gun laws the solution for the US?”
It seems like a no brainer. Duh, of course America should just implement Australia’s gun laws if it dropped gun homicides by over double in 16 years. But if you look at some of the details I’m not sure it is plausible.
Australia’s six states agreed to change the law in less than two weeks. Back in 2015, Americans couldn’t even agree on the color of “The Dress,” so how in the world are we supposed to come together and agree on new gun laws? And that’s not even the biggest issue facing changing America’s gun laws.
According to Beck’s article, the biggest issue facing Americans on changing gun laws compared to Australia is the second amendment. Australia had nothing in place that compares to the U.S.’s second amendment, and that right there is the largest hurdle in changing America’s gun laws.
The constitution has been changed 27 times since its inception in 1787. That is a span of 231 years. That is not a lot of change, and the most recent change took place in 1992, over 26 years ago. To me it just doesn’t seem like the second amendment will be changed anytime soon, if ever.
Beck agrees with me in her article that Australia’s gun laws would not change America’s gun problems. That, however, does not mean I don’t believe that change shouldn’t still happen.
An indepth look on the answers to America’s gun laws was taken by David A. Graham of The Atlantic in his article, “What’s the Solution to Gun Violence in America?” Graham reversed the usual question-and-answer article, and proposed common answers and then questioned if they would actually work or not.
Here are some of the popular solutions he looked at.
The government needs to do something about the growing number of deaths caused by gun violence.
Graham’s findings on this solution came as a complete surprise to me. I thought for sure gun related homicides would be up in America but shockingly, they are actually down. In 1993, homicides from a firearm were at seven per 100,000 people. Shockingly, in 2014 the number had decreased to 3.4 homicides per 100,000 people. This didn’t seem right at first glance but the study was conducted by the Pew Research Center, which after a little digging I found to be a reputable source.
I know this doesn’t answer the question and these numbers are based around homicides too, not just mass shootings, but the findings are interesting. It makes one wonder if this is a bigger problem today then in the past? Maybe it just feels that way because information is more accessible than in the 90’s, but that’s a different debate for a different column (and honestly a different writer.)
Background checks for all gun sales.
Obvious solution that I am totally behind. How could this be a bad thing? Graham found an issue here too. A New York Times article titled “How They Got Their Guns” discovered that most background checks don’t work properly because 19 of the most recent mass shootings happened with legally purchased weapons.
Some of the problem is that gun laws aren’t strict enough, but others are human error. I agree that stronger background checks should work, but the ones already in place are struggling to work. How can we have faith that stronger background checks is the answer?
An assault-weapons ban and a 10-round maximum for magazines.
It turns out that the U.S. implemented a law against assault weapons in 1994. The federal assault-weapons ban was implemented, but had way too many loopholes and only lasted for 10 years.
Christopher Ingraham of The Washington Post recently took a deeper look at the ban in his article, “The real reason Congress banned assault weapons in 1994 — and why it worked.” The ban reduced the amounts of deaths quiet significantly. From 1984 to 1994, America had 155 deaths from a mass shooting (six plus deaths,) whereas from 1994 to 2004 America only had 89 deaths. From 2004-2014, after the ban was lifted, America saw 302 such deaths.
The real problem with this ban was the loopholes, as Brad Plumer of the Washington Post explained in his article, “Everything you need to know about the assault weapons ban, in one post.”. All semi-automatic weapons and magazines manufactured before 1994 were still legal and could be resold. Even the manufacturing of semi-automatic weapons after 1994 was legal with the loopholes as long as minor modifications were made to the weapons, this according to Plumer.
I actually do like this solution a lot. I agree with the ban put in place back in 1994. The U.S. would just need to close-up the loopholes.
I honestly don’t have the answers. I wish I did, but I don’t.
The one place I do find a glimmer of hope comes from Beck’s article that I referenced earlier. She ends her article talking about how one of the biggest reasons for Australia’s change in policy came from Australian citizens pushing for change.
I’m not sure the out cry for change in America’s gun laws have ever been as strong as they currently are. Just look at the school walkouts that have recently happened. March for Our Lives was expected to be one of the largest protests in Washington D.C. history.
The support that protests like these are receiving is encouraging. I mentioned before that in the past I thought change would never happen to the gun laws. I know I don’t have the answer, but I’m starting to think that someone or some group in America does and I’m all for ending mass shootings.
It does give me hope, and really at this point is there much more we can ask for then that?