The United States is mourning in the wake of another mass shooting in Florida.The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was held under attack by a minor with a history of mental illness, disturbance, and racism. The Gun Control Archives tracker, which considers a mass shooting to be four or more fatalities, confirmed that 440 Mass Shootings have taken place in the United States since 2012. Just last year, mass shootings stole the lives of more than 14,000 and injured 29,000.

Parkland, Florida’s story is being treated the same as all of the previous ones--a red dot on a map of a seemingly apathetic government. With each shooting, an outpouring of frustration, calls to government representatives, protests, and candlelight vigils desperately beg for gun laws.Every time, the events are sensationalized on mainstream media for a day or two at most, and then the nation seems to move on and forget the victims, re-center the “blame,” and take extreme lengths to shift the focus away from the weapon used.

Many arguments surface when challenged about the lack of reform. Reformers are primarily promoting more background checks and tighter restrictions for semi-automatic guns. Statista, The Statistics Portal, proves that mental health is the common denominator between shooters. Men with a history of violence against women are also often the culprit. Gun supporters suggest that the best solution to this issue is more awareness and care for the mentally ill, but deny the validity of personality and mental health tests in applying for a gun.

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Mental illness is a reason for a mass shooting incident, but it is not validation. It does not justify the use of the gun, and it cannot be overlooked as merely the weapon of choice. No other legal weapon in the hands of a mentally unstable civilian has the power to kill so many.

Semi-automatic rifles, particularly the AR-15, became a national sensation after a 10-year federal ban expired. It is a lightweight, customizable assault rifle similar to the military M16.

The guns are the weapons of choice for mass shootings. The shootings in Newtown, Orlando, San Bernardino, and Las Vegas all involved this weapon. Below are a series of responses to the reasons most often given for why guns are not the issue.

“Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”

If someone read this sentence literally, they’d be inclined to agree. A gun does not ever enter a school without a hand on the trigger.

However, in comparing the gun crimes to murders with other weapons, this argument falls apart.

According to Huffington Post writer and lawyer Michael Shammas, on the day of the Sandy Hook shooting, another form of violence was wreaking havoc halfway around the world. In China, a mentally unstable man entered a school and stabbed 22 children indiscriminately. The gunman at Sandy Hook shot 20 kids and six adults before his rampage was stopped.

The children who were stabbed lived -- there were no fatalities. The children and adults shot in Sandy Hook died.

The debate is not whether guns sporadically murder four or more people. The debate is about how easily people can access guns that they use to kill people. No one believes that banning or restricting guns will eradicate all violent behavior. Much work can be done to support mental health and safety, but guns have an obvious and devastating impact on the number of deaths resulting from unchecked power.

“If people want a gun, they will find one. If we ban guns, we support a black market.”

Once again, this logic is flawed. This philosophy is not supported or defended in any other area of American law. If we forfeited our government’s power to protect people because individuals can still find ways to work around it, our government would be useless. There is no evidence that supports the claim that restricting guns or increasing background checks will lead to illegal gun trade. Most of the mass shootings were executed with guns purchased legally -- our current screenings do next to nothing to prevent shootings now. The lift on the semi-automatic rifle ban in 2004 proved that the ban had worked -- that it prevented shootings.

Many turn to Australia as an example. Between 1979 and 1996, 13 mass shootings scarred the country. After the mass shooting in Port Arthur in 1996, the entire country completely reformed their gun law. Some were upset by this, as most gun users are not murderers, but the government recognized that no matter who holds the gun, the gun still takes lives. Since this law reform, there have been no mass shootings. This has led many gun law advocates and politicians to ask the question: what is the hurt in trying? What would our country lose if we stopped blindly supporting devices intended to kill?

“It’s my second amendment right.”

The United States is one of only three countries that includes gun rights for self-defense in their constitution. When the second amendment was added to our constitutional rights, the only guns invented could shoot one to three rounds per minute. A modern AR-15 can shoot 45 rounds per minute. As our technology changes and evolves, so must our regulations. Gun law reform is not sweeping ban of all guns. It is merely a more strict and intentional measure.

“We can prevent mass shootings by making sure everyone has a gun for self-defense.”

Increasing the accessibility to guns as a defense mechanism for a rogue individual with a gun is not the answer. According to the Centers for Disease Control, unintentional injuries ranked no. 4 in cause of death for 2013. In 2013, 130,557 lives were lost as a result of accidental gun use. Aftermath, a company specializing in trauma clean-up and biohazard removal, states that gun deaths occur mainly in those 25 years or younger. More than 1,300 victims of unintentional shootings between 2005 and 2010 were in this age range. The company continues, stating that adolescents are particularly susceptible to accidental shootings due to specific behavioral characteristics, like impulsivity, the invincibility complex, and curiosity.

The Journal of TRAUMA Injury, Infection, and Critical Care reported a statistically significant association between gun availability and the number of unintentional firearm deaths, homicides, and suicides. In the United States, more than 1.69 million minors are living in households with loaded and unlocked firearms. Twice as many people died from unintentional firearm injuries in the states in the United States where firearm owners stored them loaded according to a study by the University of Utah.

Everytown, an organization for gun law reform, released an inaccurate statement, claiming that the United States has suffered from 18 mass shootings in 2018, when actually there are arguably only three. Their data included suicides and homicides. While I recognize that the need for honest numbers is critical for lawmaking, mass shootings alone are not the reason why gun reform is required. Data across decades of tragedies prove that guns kill even among the best intentioned.

A 2001 study claimed that “regardless of age, people are significantly more likely to die from unintentional firearm injuries when they live in states with more guns, relative to states with fewer guns.” States with the highest number of guns had, on average, nine times the rate of unintentional firearm deaths in comparison to states with the lowest gun numbers. Enforcing tighter control on the use, storage, and proximity of guns would save lives outside schools, concerts, and public areas.

In situations like school shootings, many wish they’d had a small weapon to stop the shooter. However, there are hardly any situations when such an approach is feasible. Lockdown rules require teachers to hide with their students and barricade the door. Not many parents would feel comfortable with the teachers exiting the classrooms to jump at the chance to shoot someone who may have a gun with a weapon they hardly understand and likely don’t feel comfortable using. This is not even to mention that many shootings occur in situations where simply firing back at the shooter is possible. In the Las Vegas shooting as well as the Orlando one, the man with the modified assault rifle shot from an unidentifiable location at a dark venue in which hundreds of people scattered. Locating the proper person to take aim at and shoot would require professional military skill, night vision goggles, and the ability to stay calm and steady in the midst of hysteria.

Normalizing the omnipresence of firearms would also indirectly encourage shooters. As with the argument that gun laws are useless, this would ensure that anyone who wanted to obtain a gun would have the easiest access.

“I’m a hunter.”

Hunters go through rigorous training to hunt. The properties that they use have specific boundaries, times of year, and clothing requirements. All hunters require a license, explicit permission, and are monitored strictly. This is not to mention that hunters do not need an AR-15 to shoot an animal. In the process of requiring stricter gun laws, any hunter with a clean record, license, and normal hunting weapons should not be concerned about losing their hobby.

“It’s not a guns issue; it’s a mental illness issue.”

Agreed! Most shooters have some level of mental illness, as mentioned earlier. This is precisely why President Barack Obama approved a gun law requiring mental illness background checks. President Donald Trump threw this bill out. As mentioned previously, mental illness is definitely a reason why so many mass shootings have occurred, but they are by no means validated because of that. Obama’s bill was intended to thoroughly investigate someone’s mental ability to own a gun safely. It is a sympathetic policy for gun advocates while also addressing that mental illness factors into the equation.

The need for tighter gun laws is not in ignorance of mental illness. It’s a motion intended to prevent the tipping points of those who are suffering from mental illness. When a child is allergic to peanuts, a parent would probably not put a peanut butter sandwich in front of them and hope they talk to them before they take a bite.

Thoughts and prayers are useless if they are not followed by action

Look at other countries. What they all have in common is reasonable, strong gun laws. We are in such an advanced age. If you have trouble swallowing all of this information, read about all of the families affected by the mass shooting tragedies and try to empathize. We have to politicize these events. Mourning apathetically is not going to save lives anymore.

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