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When we hear war, we think about who we’re fighting with overseas, but what do we do when the people we’re firing at are our own citizens?
I would like to share with you all an essay I had to write at the end of this school year. This is a paper that I had to do for my final in my english class. At first I was frustrated about having to do a big assignment. I just wanted to get out of school and begin summer!
Then I began researching and writing. This became not only a paper, but something that I am now extremely passionate about.
Please note that the solution I presented was merely because it was part of the assignment. I am aware it is almost impossible for it to happen.
But I am a high school student. Why should I be afraid to go to a place that is designed to set up my future? Why should I be afraid that school is where my future is going to be taken away from me because of an intruder?
More children have been shot in schools than active military soldiers in 2018. I am more likely to be killed while learning than if I enlisted in the army right now.
Keep in mind you may think that guns are a right and a necessity to our country and it’s protection, and you’re right for the most part. They are a right, but Bill Clinton once said, “When we got organized as a country, [and] wrote a fairly radical Constitution, with a radical Bill of Rights, giving radical amounts of freedom to Americans, it was assumed that Americans who had that freedom would use it responsibly .... When personal freedom is being abused, you have to move to limit it."
Every week, sometimes multiple days a week, we hear on the news about how parents' kids are never coming home from school because a gun was pulled on the students, or the laughter of friends being silenced after a shower of bullets rains on party-goers, or even children being left without a mom or dad after gun fire rang out amongst them and their parent's coworkers. This is nothing but abuse of the freedom to bear arms, so it's time to limit that freedom.
Will my article and this essay being posted do anything about this issue? Probably not. But now us high school students are the ones who have to take action because the adults we are supposed to trust to get us to adulthood aren’t doing their job.
Also, I know I will have done something to help with this cause. All we want is to be safe and be heard, so if you’ve made it this far, I hope you see my side. I don’t want to change how you think about things or make you angry and frustrated with teenagers thinking ‘they can make a difference.’ I’m just trying to survive & be able to vote, buy a house, have kids, & just have a future.
Here’s my essay below. Thank you for making it this far, and if you decide to read the essay, thank you.
I. Problem Defined
Gun control is a topic repeatedly brought up throughout the course of the Twenty-First century, usually following the occurrence of a recent mass shooting. Gun control is the set of laws or policies that regulate the manufacture, sale, transfer, possession, and use of firearms by civilians (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, 2005). Hesitation to handle this issue is due to the Second Amendment which states: "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed" (Cornell University). In more simplistic terms, this means that individuals can arm themselves with weapons as a way of defense and will not be prosecuted for it. Despite this, the United States of America desperately needs to introduce more gun control by introducing new laws, which may include the introduction of a Twenty-Eighth Amendment to repeal the Second Amendment, to protect the children, adults, and future generations that populate the U.S. and reduce the threat of their lives being ended abruptly by a vengeful person behind a trigger.
Guns have had a long history of being misused across America and have been around since the arrival of them in the United States during colonial times. Stories are blazoned all over the news every day about how one or two—maybe three—innocent civilians have been shot. These tragedies take place everywhere and at any time in the day. The fact that an ordinary person can easily pull out a gun while walking down the street or while working in their office should signal the government that the current gun laws need to be addressed, but the real issue is when over a dozen lives come to an end as they're partying at a club, rocking out at a concert, and unfortunately, in a lot of cases, whilst getting an education.
Gun control isn't a new concept. The U.S. has been introducing laws concerning guns since the 1930s. Right now, the age limit to buy a hand gun is eighteen and the age limit for any other gun is twenty-one. Citizens must be registered to have a gun while also registering the gun as well, but what are some laws passed in favor of gun control? Most laws protect gun dealers rather than civilians and regulate the taxing and manufacturing of firearms. The Gun-Free School Zone Act of 1990 prohibits unauthorized individuals from possessing a firearm unknowingly in a school zone. The Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act of 1993 requires background checks on purchasers and the Federal Assault Weapons Ban (FAWB) of 1994 banned semi-automatic assault weapons. (Gettings, 2018). Even though FAWB was one of the most important gun control legislations passed, it expired in 2004 and was never renewed. It was also the last law passed in favor of gun control, which means that America has gone fourteen years without any new legislation on guns.
A terrible event that made people start to talk about gun control was the Columbine High School shooting on April 20th, 1999. Two teenagers, aged seventeen and eighteen, killed twelve students and a teacher with multiple firearms in the library of their school. This was the worst high school shooting at the time, which prompted the gun control talks (COLUMBINE SHOOTING, 2009). The talks eventually died down as more shootings involving at least five deaths occurred, but none drastic enough to catch the public's eye. That's until April 16, 2007 when a college student killed thirty-two teachers and students at Virginia Polytechnic Institute (Massacre at Virginia Tech leaves 32 dead, 2011). This sparked more gun control talk but nothing was able to be accomplished before the next mass school shooting took place. On December 14, 2012, a twenty-year-old killed twenty-six people at Sandy Hook Elementary school. Twenty of those casualties were children aged six-seven. This became the second deadliest mass shooting in America (Gunman kills students and adults at Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school, 2013). Sadly, these children's lives being taken still wasn’t a big enough scream at the government to do something about guns. June 12, 2016, forty-nine people were killed by a twenty-nine-year-old in the Pulse nightclub. October 1, 2017, fifty-eight people were killed during a concert in Las Vegas by a sixty-four-year-old man. Most recently, on February 14, 2018, seventeen people were killed by a nineteen-year-old at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida (Deadliest Mass Shootings in Modern US History Fast Facts, 2018).
Following every mass shooting comes the talk of getting stricter gun laws and the introduction of new activists to push for change. Letters are sent to the president, protests are held all throughout the states, awareness is spread around the nation. Despite all this, America has obtained a routine for every shooting that claimed the lives of more than a dozen peoples. They set up memorials, send prayers, and keep the victims and the event in their minds for weeks until it's in the past, but flowers don’t save lives, prayers don’t save lives, mourning doesn’t save lives, and tears don’t save lives. America gets through these catastrophic events by saying all the reforms that need to take place but never carrying out those changes. Politicians need to send law reforms to Congress, not just prayers to the victims and survivors.
Four out of six mass shootings mentioned involved a teenager with a semi-automatic weapon. Why is it so easy for a teenager to get those kinds of weapons in their hands? Why are people having a fun night out with their friends at a concert or a club but visiting that same friends grave the next week? Why are children leaving their house to get their required education but not returning home ever again? Why is all this happening despite the fact that households owning guns are decreasing (Gerhart, 2018). This means the problem is not with the people, but with the laws that give the public access to a weapon with that much lethal power. The problem still exists simply because United States citizens talk about what needs to be done rather than do what needs to be done. As a result, the number of deaths due to firearms rise every day and leaves one more wife without a husband, child without a father, parents without a daughter, and so forth. In order to prevent history from repeating itself and break America of this pattern, words need to be transformed into actions and the fight for gun control can't die with the victims anymore. It needs to stay alive until the change occurs that will end these tragedies for good.
III. Potential Solution
Gun control is difficult to enforce because many Americans see it as an infraction to their Second Amendment of how "the right of the people [is] to keep and bear Arms" (Cornell University). Because this problem has that barrier, the action of ratifying a Twenty-Eighth Amendment to repeal the Second Amendment will eliminate it, further making it easier to introduce new gun laws. New laws would include the banning of all semi-automatic and self-loading firearms, have stricter requirements for registration and issue a buyback program for guns that have been banned by these laws. What first needs to be done is the ratification of the Twenty-Eighth Amendment by Congress which will follow the similar statement of the Twenty-First Amendment that states "The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed" (United States of America 1789 [rev. 1992]). The concept of repealing an amendment is not new as America has done it with the Eighteenth Amendment, so the act of repealing the Second Amendment will follow that. There's many citizens who deem this necessary and will use peaceful protests, social media, and other legal measures to make Congress consider and follow through with the first step of a plan to make America safer.
The second part of this plan is the creation of the new set of laws mentioned above. Most of Americans can agree that no civilian needs a semi-automatic, military grade, or self-loading fire arm of any sort just to protect themselves, hunt, or to add to their collection. The banning and repossession of all these may seem like an extensive amount of work, but there is proven evidence that this can, in fact, lead to a decrease in mass shootings. After a mass shooting in Australia in 1996, similar to ones that the United States experience way too often, they introduced the National Firearms Agreement. This included the banning and buyback program that the solution plans to adopt. Australia has not had to live through another mass shooting since and the rate of homicides has decreased by 20 percent as of 2007 (Kiely 2017). There are already many activists and a large audience to support these laws and constitutional changes. These individuals and large groups will help spread this solution to the public using social media and leading protests in major cities, including Washington D.C. The impact of this will cause outrage in some who don’t see the need for gun reform, but also it will give others a sense of relief since the country is taking steps into the path of a safer nation. The solution will not make gun owners relinquish all their firearms, but only the ones that have been newly labeled as illegal and a danger to the safety of others. The United States will most likely see a decrease in murders and shootings, as statistics have shown, once these laws have been put into place.
Many people who will oppose this solution are the people who profit off guns, such as the National Rifle Association. Money is what makes America and when it comes to making money, people get selfish. The gun industry is a multibillion-dollar industry. The gun and ammunition manufacturing industries make $13.5 billion in revenue each year with $1.5 billion in profits (Popken 2015). With the implementation of this solution, that number will surely decrease, and when Americans income is threatened, they feel enraged and threatened as well. The plan for tackling this is to simply ask Americans what they value more: safety or money? A citizen won't have the ability to make any money if they are six feet in the ground because of a fatal gunshot. Stricter laws will make it illegal to purchase, manufacture, or sell certain fire arms and fire arm accessories that are deemed too dangerous. Any company found to have violated these laws by selling any of the banned firearms will be immediately shut down, making them lose all profits. The threat of losing all income rather than a decrease in income will scare those big businesses from breaking the law.
Of course, there are those people who are willing to risk breaking the law for a larger income. These people mostly resort to using the Black Market, which is where people sell and buy goods that are forbidden by the government because they do not want their citizens to have them at all (Johnson 2005). Tackling this is more than difficult since it's such a wide, spread out network and eliminating it is nearly impossible. Surely with this solution enacted more people will use the Black Market as an opportunity for more cash or illegal firearms which is something the government can't quite control at this time in history as it is too advanced. Sen. Joe Lieberman said that "the strongest conceivable gun control laws won't stop all acts of violence. But...acknowledge that the stronger our gun control laws are, the fewer acts of violence including mass violence will happen in our society" (Kim 2012). This statement sums up what the new laws will accomplish despite the opposition. Realistically, there will still be shootings happening after the introduction of these laws, but there will be less occurrences since less of these weapons are out there due to higher regulation. Stopping all acts of violence is an impossible task but decreasing the acts of violence is completely possible with the right regulation, laws, and enforcement. Both oppositions aren't impossible to erase, just difficult. What America needs to do is open the opposition's eyes to the fact that safety ought to be valued over personal economic gain. The goal isn't to completely remove them from society but to decrease their involvement in illegal firearm transactions and their support of violence.
Throughout my research I've learned so many things that I'm proud I got the opportunity to know. I learned about what we've done in respect to gun control legislation and that really opened my eyes since we haven't done as much for it as I thought we had. I also learned about way more mass shootings that hadn't made public headlines and it made me more invested in this problem because of how some shootings don’t even get acknowledged even though they had the same ending, deaths of multiple individuals. A greater understanding about humanity that I've gained is that humans are selfish. We want what we want. During my research, I never found an article that looked at both sides. It was either all anti-gun control or pro-gun control, and neither author considered the opposing side. I realized that I was doing the same thing with my topic, but since we had to include an opposition section, it forced me to take a look at the other side, which I am grateful for since I was only focusing on what I wanted done, as society tends to do. What I really liked about my research was how relevant of a topic it was. There were new articles every day and even new shootings every week, which really emphasizes how important this problem is and how it is in need of an effective solution as soon as possible. I didn’t really dislike any part of my research, besides the fact that there were no articles that seemed unbiased since the authors clearly favored one side. Overall, I am glad to have chosen a topic that was both interesting and relevant. It made me learn a lot about a very serious issue along with humanity itself while also pushing me to not just focus on my view of this problem, but the other sides view as well.