By Priya Mullassaril
When foreigners hear of America nowadays, one thing comes to mind: school shootings. The notion that our country has neglected to protect its children from gun violence is propelled by the failure of lawmakers to pass legislation that effectively and thoroughly screens Americans before handing them a firearm. Not only do children live in fear, but so does the average working-class citizen. Every day in the US, 316 people are shot, 106 of which are fatal. These numbers stand to increase if legal recourse is not taken to place tighter restrictions on guns.
Another way in which gun violence has steadily grown over the years is through state preemption. This happens when an organization that supports the use of guns, such as the National Rifle Association, undermines city-wide laws on gun regulation and ensures laws that work in their favor. These organizations have successfully overturned the federal gun laws of forty-two states and implemented their own, unrestricted gun laws. These laws allow firearms to be carried in public places, resulting in a higher rate of crime and violence. State preemption is an obscene abuse of power, which Congress must work to prohibit in order to diminish the power of groups such as the NRA. However, many Republicans fear losing their gun rights if state preemption is deemed illegal since this practice operates heavily in conservative states where guns are valued immeasurably. The loss of gun rights looms ominously over their heads and is the most probable reason why state preemption has not been banned yet. If Republicans supportive of the Second Amendment were able to understand the danger that these flimsy gun laws pose for the rest of America, perhaps they would be able to support the prohibition of preemption.
Unimaginable tragedies have taken place as a result of this nation’s lax policy regarding guns. In March of 2021, Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa opened fire in a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado. Ten lives were lost, the youngest victim being only twenty years old. Ahmad’s mental instability should be noted, as it was clear he was not sound of mind at the time. Onlookers said he was mumbling and laughing during confrontations with officers, and when he was shot in the leg by a policeman, he exclaimed, “I surrender. I’m naked.” Ahmad was not mentally stable at the time and was declared incompetent to stand trial because of his condition. So why is it that someone was able to legally sell him a machine with which he could take lives? Laws need to be set forth so that guns are not as readily accessible to the mentally ill and to those with severe psychological conditions. This is not because they are violent at their core, but because guns could upheave their fragile temperaments and impel them to do something irrevocable. What they should receive is proper medical care with a professional diagnosis. Our society has brewed the stigma that people with mental illnesses are more inclined to violence. While this is a cruel stereotype, it may become true if actions are not taken to prescribe them the right medication—and if they have guns at their fingertips. The path that Ahmad and other shooters with unsound minds have gone down is not only a shame on the American government but also on our medical institutions. If the people in our country who wear lab coats and suits had paid more attention to those who were clearly struggling, such an atrocity could have been prevented. But they didn’t, so it wasn’t.
Gun violence in this country is undeniably out of control. The only way to keep this violence at a minimum is to impose ironclad gun restrictions, as proven by foreign countries such as China, Australia, and the United Kingdom, where there is an emphasis on gun control, and the amount of gun violence consequently dwarfs in comparison to ours. In relation to other developed countries, the US has 25.2 times more homicides by guns. Gun violence also disproportionately affects people of color, as targeted racial attacks are made easier with these long range weapons. Unfettered access to guns allows horrific things to happen, and while some Americans argue that guns should be allowed for hunting, stricter background checks, at the very least, must be implemented before people are allowed to purchase a firearm.
Moreover, laws need to be put in place to ensure the safety of children around firearms. For instance, if all states enacted a stricter policy regarding gun storage, mandating gun owners with small children to store their guns in locked safes, accidental firearm deaths would be reduced by an approximated 6%. The year 2021 saw 289 children accidentally fire a gun at either themselves, or someone near them, due to poor gun storage. These tragedies could easily have been prevented through legal action in Congress.
Over time, our country has divorced itself from the criticality of safety and instead reeks of incorrigibility and a fatal case of indolence. As politicians twiddle their thumbs and wait for the hour hand to dismiss them, bodies are lowered into the ground across America. A terrifying 18% of all recorded school shootings in American history have occurred since the Sandy Hook Shooting of 2012, and those numbers wrack fear through the minds of all citizens. Perhaps a future is possible where America's children do not have to prepare themselves for school shootings once every month by hiding in the corner of their classrooms in practice drills, but that future is only achievable if our government deems it to be one worth working towards.