Pulse. Sandy Hook. Sutherland Springs. Stoneman Douglas. These are the sites of four of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history, and they all have one thing in common: the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. The AR-15, a semi-automatic weapon coined by the NRA as the “civilian version of the military’s M-16” and one of the most-owned guns in America, has managed to make an appearance in some of the country’s deadliest gun rampages. Over the years, hundreds of lives have been lost at the expense of America’s favorite rifle. The nation is in the midst of a crisis, and the solution is better gun control.
A common misconception about the phrase “gun control” is that it translates to the banning of all guns and the repeal of the Second Amendment. In reality, gun control, by definition, is the “regulation of sale, ownership, and use of guns.”
The lack of gun legislation in the U.S., given the rapidly worsening state of gun violence, is puzzling to say the least. Many argue that legislation won’t help, but statistics say otherwise. Between the years 1982 and 2018, 69 percent of weapons used in mass shootings were obtained legally by the killer. The guns used in shootings at Stoneman Douglas, Pulse Nightclub, Virginia Tech and Sutherland Springs were all purchased legally.
In 2018 alone, there have been 329 mass shootings and 363 deaths. That is only 36 days short of having one mass shooting every day of the year. At the current rate, assuming that the trend doesn’t increase (which it has rapidly over the past two decades), the US can expect a minimum of 2,303 mass shootings by the end of 2025 and more than 2,541 deaths.
In 2012, under the Obama administration, the tragic killing of 20 first-graders and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School revived the gun control debate. A bipartisan bill proposing expanded background checks made it to Senate, but fell six votes shy of passing. Six years later, in 2018, Congress has yet to progress from this point in gun policy. The stubborn unwillingness of the government to regulate weapons is costing the American people more and more lives every day. It is hard to say why anyone would be opposed to keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people.
In addition to the stark increase of mass shootings after semi-automatics and high-capacity magazines went back on the market, global statistics also support that stricter gun legislation will decrease the number of mass shootings. First of all, the U.S. accounts for a shocking amount of guns and mass shooters in circulation globally. The U.S. does not even make up five percent of the global population, but somehow, it claims 31 percent of the world’s mass shootings. According to the Gun Violence Archive, the number of legal gun owners directly correlates with the number of mass shooters in a country per capita. The next fact should come as no surprise: the United States has the highest rate of gun ownership per capita in the world by a landslide. Americans own 48 percent of civilian-owned guns in the whole world. This means that, out of an estimated 650 million legal civilian-owned guns worldwide, the U.S. owns about 312 million.
Many claim that stricter gun control will not will not help America’s gun problem, and perhaps it won’t. But it has elsewhere. In Australia in 1996, a gunman armed with an AR-15 killed thirty five people at Port Arthur. Only weeks after, Australian legislation banned all buying of semi-automatic rifles. They also introduced a gun buyback program that encouraged owners of assault weapons to give them up, and many of them did. There has not been a mass shooting since. Even if America doesn’t completely pull semi-automatic rifles off the market, all of the following should be required by the federal government for every type of gun: a license and registration, a given reason for purchase, mandatory safety training, a mental and physical evaluation, a waiting period, and peer references. This way, responsible owners can keep their guns and continue to buy more, and those unfit to purchase a weapon could not possibly purchase one legally. Canada is one of the countries that uses peer references, waiting periods, licenses and safety training for gun purchases. In the past ten years, Canada has had 22 major mass shootings; the U.S. has had more than 1,000.
America does not have a gun problem, it has multiple: the gun and violence-obsessed state of the U.S., the shocking ease of purchasing a weapon capable of mass murder, and the government’s blatant neglect towards the hundreds of deaths per year of America’s men, women and children. How many more need to die? When will America finally start putting lives before guns? The time is now, and it is more desperate than ever.