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Mass School Shootings: An Epidemic Sweeping Across America

A Breakdown of the Crisis, and Solutions to the Problem

Photo credit: Bob Dass on Visual Hunt / CC BY

I would like to begin this article by personally asking you to read it all the way through, whether or not your beliefs fall in line with mine. I put a lot of time and effort into this article, not for it to be condescending or intentionally aggravating, but to educate. I simply want a safer America, and no matter what, I think you, as the reader, want one too. If, for any reason, you feel that I have published a false report, or something offensive in nature, feel free to email me via the email address located at the end of the article. I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts an opinions, and I hope I may serve as a voice for my fellow students of America.

The Stats

Four months, five days, twenty-two hours, and fifty-two minutes is how long it has taken for 23 shootings to occur in America's schools in the year of 2018 (FBI Records). Shootings in which at least one person was injured due to ballistics. That averages down to about one shooting a week. Shocking, right? Just wait. Since 2013, there have been 142 school shootings in America (Everytown for Gun Safety). Since Columbine? 270 (ABC News review of reported cases). Not only are these numbers horrific, school shootings are increasing in numbers by the year.

In most cases, the school shooters had no criminal record—73 percent of cases, to be exact (U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Department of Education). In even more cases, 81 percent, there were people who were aware of the school shooter's homicidal tendencies (U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Department of Education). Finally, there have been 141 people killed in attempted and successful school shootings (FBI records). Diabolical.

Photo credit: Bluedharma on VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NDC

So what does this all mean?

In short, it means we have a big problem on our hands, that has been 19 years in the making. It means that actual students, with families and lives perished for simply existing in a school. All 142 of them. It means that background checks are ineffective when it comes to dealing with school shootings. If you don't have a criminal record, then a background check does you no good. It means that not only were people aware of the most situations before they took place; however, they either didn't care enough or failed to be proactive. 

Most importantly, above all, it means that not only the children and college students of today are currently being educated in areas where they are in danger, but that children and college students of the future will be in danger as well if the citizens of America do not put a stop to it once and for all.

Common Sense Gun Control

The first instinct for Americans when the topic of gun control is introduced is to immediately refute the idea of any kind of restriction regarding our rights. I, as a student and fellow Tennessean, understand one's concern when it comes down to gun control. It's normal to have this response, as we Americans value our liberties and freedoms. However, common sense gun control is not about stripping one of their firearms, but more so altering the restrictions when it comes down to the firearms and weaponry one is allowed to own.

Now that it has been made clear that it is not about outlawing all firearms, it's about where we draw the line. The ownership of an automatic weapon is already prohibited in America, as well as many other forms of weaponry. I am proposing that, along with the firearms that are already illegal, semi-automatic rifles with a clip capacity of five or more rounds be outlawed as well. Along with that, the sale and ownership of modifications such as bump-stocks that allow the weapon to fire at a higher rate be prohibited. Finally, I also believe the age restriction for purchasing all firearms be raised to 21 years of age.

Then the issue comes to purchasing and owning a gun, outside of the semi-automatic rifles with high clip capacities. In many states, Tennessee and Florida being two of them, a person can go to a gun show, verify their age, and purchase a gun. They do not have to register that weapon, and they are not required to purchase any form of safety mechanisms for that weapon. That in and of itself is dangerous alone. Any 18-year-old high school student can use this as a method of acquiring a murder weapon.

Here is a solution to that problem. Before anyone purchases a firearm, you must give a reason to their local law enforcement agency as to why they want/need a firearm. If the police in their area approve of their reasoning, they should have to go through a safety course. A course demonstrating not only how to safely handle the weapon, but a course also demonstrating the proper way to clean and safely store the weapon and ammunition. After that person has completed the safety course, they should go through a mental evaluation with not one, but two trained professionals. If both of those professionals deem that person mentally capable of purchasing a weapon, they may then proceed to have a background check. 

Once (if) that individual's background check comes back clean, they may then purchase a firearm. After purchasing their firearm, they must demonstrate that they know how to safely handle and store that weapon along with its ammunition via a demonstration. If that person preforms well on their demonstration, their weapon must be registered. Annually, they should have to re-register their weapon, and it must be kept on record how much ammunition they purchase for that weapon yearly. Every three years, a person should have to go through another mental evaluation by two different professionals.

There are many reasons why people defend semi-automatic rifles with high clip capacity. The following paragraphs will debunk and/or falsify those reasons. Be aware that the following content is not meant to be condescending or harmful in any way. It is simply to educate.   

Self Defense/Home Invasion

Most Americans own weaponry for self defense and to protect against home invasion. Firearms are a very useful tool when it comes to protecting one's self. Simply pointing a firearm at an attacker or intruder is usually enough to leave them dead in their tracks. No one needs a semi-automatic rifle with a high clip capacity to defend themselves or their home. One can effectively defend themselves or their household with a shotgun, handgun, or regular rifle. A few bullets from any source is enough to effectively stop an attacker or home invader.

'Well, I'm not crazy so I'm not putting anyone in danger.'

Incorrect. By simply owning that weapon, you are putting people at risk. For that weapon to exist in your home makes it a liability to be used as a murder weapon. Multitudes of reasons are available as to why certain firearms' existence in a civilian household puts the rest of the civilization in danger. The weapon could be stolen, then it is in the hands of a criminal. Teens in the household could get the weapon and decide to use it for whatever they please. A civilian may be paid off for the weapon, without it being registered and without knowing the purchaser's motive. Just because you may handle your weapon safely and store it safely along with its ammunition does not mean the rest of the country does.

'It's my constitutionally protected right.'

Again, that is incorrect. You are constitutionally allowed to bear firearms, but you aren't allowed to own an M-16. Therefore you are not constitutionally protected to bear any arm you want. The second amendment to the United States constitution in the Bill of Rights states, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed" (Constitution of United States of America 1789 (rev. 1992)).

That amendment was written in the 1700s, at a time when technology was not advanced enough for there to be firearms as dangerous as the ones there are today. Our forefathers intended us to have firearms to defend ourselves and our country, yes, though they did not intend for us to have firearms that could cause destruction and wreak havoc on our communities. A semi-automatic, high clip capacity rifle is one of those firearms.

Think of it like your first amendment: although you have the freedom of speech, you cannot yell "fire!" in a theater when there isn't one. Just like you can't slander someone's name, or publish false reports. Again, it's not about taking away your rights, it is just about changing where the line is drawn.

'I need this weapon for hunting.'

No, you want that weapon for hunting. Any experienced hunter can say the same. There have been many rifles and firearms made for the purpose of hunting game of all shapes and sizes, semi-automatic, high clip capacity rifles just make the job easier in certain situations. Comfort and efficiency when hunting game rightfully does not outweigh a citizen's right to an education in a safe environment.

'I enjoy using this firearm in a recreational sense, and would be sad if I was no longer allowed to do so.'

I completely understand. I have shot an AR-15 before and have felt the power in my hands. It feels great to practice shooting with one, and experiencing what it is like to hit your targets. There is a way you can still shoot your favorite weapons without owning them and keeping them in your household. I propose the idea that there should be a shooting range in which citizens who are deemed mentally stable and have completed a safety course will be able to fire till their hearts consent. That way, you will be in a safe environment, being watched over by multiple other armed professionals. Perhaps it might even be fun. You could test out other illegal firearms and experience them in an environment where there are plenty of targets and you are in no danger to yourself or your community.

'I believe that the sale of these firearms should be prohibited, but I don't feel comfortable with the local law enforcement seizing them.'

In some areas of the United States, it is sad to say that the Law Enforcement isn't trusted by the community. That being said, malevolent local law enforcement exist and I am aware of that. You won't have to worry about that under these conditions, because when these weapons are seized, you should be financially compensated for it and the weapon should be sawed in half in front of you the moment the police seize it. If you believe that wont't happen, then become an advocate when it doesn't! Make a difference.

I feel this about sums it up when it comes to debunking the reasoning behind civilians owning semi-automatic, high clip capacity assault rifles. If I left something out, feel free to contact me via the email address below to voice your opinion. I will do my best to update this portion of the article as time goes on.

Mental Health Awareness

It is natural for us to demean and personify school shooters as monsters. To an extent, they are. They have committed unspeakable crimes that are unforgivable, and they are to be punished crucially. Yet we as citizens of America have to realize that a very, very small portion of people just decide to slaughter their fellow classmates for the heck of it. There are other sides to the story. Abuse can warp a person's sense of right or wrong. In most cases, the children who choose to attack their fellow classmates come from a line of abuse, whether it be at home or just being bullied in school. 

I know firsthand kids can be total dicks, and it's not cool. Schools say they don't stand for bullying, when in reality, they don't do much to stop it. We as students have to put an end to it ourselves. If you see a kid getting picked on or bullied, stand up. If you're too afraid, record the incident and show it to your teacher or other school official. Only we can stop bullying, not the school administration alone. We are all human, we are the same, let's start acting like it.

Architectural Defense

Many schools in America are way too easy for an attacker to penetrate. They have many entrances, which are not all locked, and if they are locked, any student may choose to open the door for someone outside. I propose there to be one entrance to the school that remains unlocked, and that entrance needs bulletproof windows, with a double door system. That entrance should be under surveillance at all times, that way the administrators are aware of who comes and leaves their school. Any other door that has access should remain locked both from the inside and the outside, and only faculty members should carry a key that can open said door. 

Making a Difference

If you were moved by this article, or already had a stance similar to my own, do something about it. Contact your district's congressman or congresswoman and let them know how you feel. Have them aware of your opinions and ask them of theirs. Most importantly, vote. If you aren't able to vote, spread the word to as many people as you can. One day you will be able to vote, and whether or not you realize it, your vote matters. 8 million teens across America will be able to participate in their state elections next year. Be the change you want to see in the world, and in our country.

Thank you to all who took the time to read this article all the way through. Feel free to contact me at my email address.

[email protected]

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