Who is responsible for U.S. mass shootings: The shooter or gun control laws?

We all know of a mass shooting that even if we didn’t know any of the people involved it still caused us sadness, so much as to bring us to tears in certain moments. Mass shootings occur everywhere, places where guns are illegal and legal to own. However, just by looking at the news it is easy to see that mass shootings occur with most casualties and frequency in the United States, where ownership of guns is legal. Since the latest school mass shooting that occurred in Parkland, Florida the 14th of February, students have risen up demanding better gun control laws in the US. Students are now fighting for their safety while others fight against losing their right to bear arms. As these debates surface, it is important to come to the conclusion of who is truly responsible for mass shootings: the shooter or the laws that allow the shooter to own a gun.

Mass shootings have always been part of history. In the past mass murdering, especially with guns, occurred almost everywhere. However, According to Scientific American, The United States has become the country with the highest rate of mass shootings in present decades. In the last 30 year period, the US has had 78 mass shootings, while the following country to have the most mass shootings in that period of time is Germany with 7 mass shootings. This shows that there is something greatly wrong with how the United States manages and avoids gun violence today. The high rate of gun deaths and mass shootings have often been blamed on the second amendment, which allows US citizens to own and carry weapons. It is often forgotten that the United States is not the only country which allows the public to buy guns. Mexico and Guatemala have similar laws when it comes to the ownership of firearms, but have higher restrictions on who and what guns are purchased. In Mexico, according to the Business Insider, civilians can only own a single handgun with a calibre no greater than .38 and they can only be used for home protection. Military and policemen are the only people allowed to buy semi-automatic and automatic rifles. Greatest of all, there is only one store in the entire country where guns can be bought, which is a highly armed military base located in Mexico City. Guatemala also has similarly strict laws when it comes to civilians owning weapons. “Individuals who want to purchase a gun for private security purposes need approval from the government. They are also limited in how much ammunition they can own, and they must reapply and re-qualify for their firearm licenses every one to three years,” Even if these two countries don’t have a crime-free reputation, neither Mexico nor Guatemala have experienced mass shootings in the size and quantity of those in the United States, showing these policies do work in reducing mass killings.   

The deadliest mass shootings that have occurred in the United States in the past 6 years all had one thing in common. All shooters had an AR-15 with multiple heavy-duty magazines. An AR-15 is a semi-automatic rifle which fires small bullets at a high velocity, once it hits the person the bullet often shatters inside the body, making the injury much worse. Bump stocks can also be added to these rifles, making them as quick and easy to fire as a fully automatic weapon. Stephen Paddock, the shooter in the Las Vegas shooting used this weapon with a bump stock, shooting over 500 people and killing 59, marking as the second greatest mass shooting in recent decades. All the gun equipment that he owned was legal. Weapons and magazines in the United States that are only created for mass murdering are sold as sports equipment and collectables, in a completely legal and nonchalant manner to anyone over 18. In Britain, Germany, and Australia there was a great change in gun laws after mass shootings done with high capacity guns. According to the Washington Post, Australia put a ban on semi-automatic and increased the requirements one must meet to own a handgun after a school mass shooting where 35 people were killed. There has not been a mass shooting in Australia since the change in gun laws.

Many shooters have also shown to have similar patterns of emotional distress throughout their childhood. A large number of them grew up in violent households, which contained guns, as well as being bullied and ignored. Many also showed signs of violence and mental instability in public. Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old who killed 17 of his peers in a school in Parkland, Florida, was known to be a violent and disturbed individual. The way he spoke, acted, and posted on social media were blaring warning signs of his violent behaviour and desire to murder. He posted pictures of himself cutting his own arm, pictures of all kinds of weapons, he was associated with many racist and homophobic accounts and sites, he constantly talked about guns and wanting to buy one, he had verbally mentioned to multiple of his peers that he wanted to kill gay people and Mexicans, as well as drawing a swastika on his school backpack. He had been expelled from 2 private schools before being expelled from Stoneman Douglas High School for making threats against other students. The police even received multiple anonymous tips that Cruz might shoot the school and wanted to buy a gun to do so. He had been in and out of mental hospitals for mental disabilities and a suicide attempt. However, all these signs that he was a potential shooter weren’t able to stop Cruz from legally buying an AR-15 and a worrying amount of magazines.  

Since the Parkland school shooting, students have decided that enough is enough. A protest was formed the 24th of March in Washington D.C called March for Our Lives. This march was made to demand better gun control laws and to honour the students and teachers who had died in school shootings. Students, activists, and some celebrities spoke at the march expressing their thoughts and sharing what the government must do to fix gun laws. Change has already been made as on the 9th of March Governor Rick Scott signed a legislation to increase gun laws in Florida. He changed the minimum age for buying rifles from 18 to 21, banned bump stocks, and established a waiting period and background checks for gun buyers.   

As changes occur in Florida, requests rise for changes to occur throughout the entirety of the United States. On the 28th of February, a meeting was led in the White House to deliberate future changes in gun control laws. President Trump’s main idea is to eliminate gun-free zones and arming teachers. During the session, the President pushed ahead his idea of arming teacher “These people are cowards. They’re not going to walk into a school if 20% of the teachers have guns. And what I’d recommend doing is the people that do carry, we give them a bonus. We give them a little bit of a bonus. They’ll frankly feel more comfortable having the gun anyway. But you give them a little bit of a bonus,” As well as proposing that teachers who receive gun training should get an extra bonus. However, this solution brings a lot of controversy to the table and many rejected it. “Teachers don’t want to be armed, we want to teach. We don’t want to be, and would never have the expertise needed to be sharpshooters; no amount of training can prepare an armed teacher to go up against an AR-15,” said Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, during the session to show his discontent with the idea. The Parkland shooting is a prime example of how having someone armed in the school doesn’t help stop the shooting, as according to The Guardian, there was, in fact, an armed guard at the school during the shooting.

Some people want to own guns for their safety and some people want to go to school without having to worry about being murdered. We can’t have both. The ownership of guns in the United States, especially owning semi-automatic weapons, has to stop. Rarely has anyone ever used the gun that they own as a form of self-defence, most people just injure themselves or others. Only 3.1% of armed citizens have exchanged gunfire with a shooter, according to an FBI study done on active shooters in America on the 21st century. Arming teachers would be dangerous, for the children and themselves, as well as making a learning environment into a battleground. Background checks are necessary when purchasing a gun, mental health is important when assessing who should own a gun, and semi-automatic rifles and magazines that hold over 100 rounds should not be available to citizens.

So, who is responsible for mass shootings? Even if the shooter is the one that goes through with murdering the people, the government has a big part in allowing this to happen. The second amendment gives the people the right to bear arms for their protection, but nobody will use a semi-automatic rifle that can fire 100-200 rounds a minute to protect themselves, it can only be used to senselessly harm others. There is no statement in the second amendment that says people should have accessibility to anything more deadly than a handgun, so why are we putting children at risk when these weapons could perfectly be out of the market? People’s right to own these weapons contradicts the human right to safety. The selling of these weapons and lack of care when selling guns show that the government is not following article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child “States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse”. The government must take responsibility for the shootings that have occurred and take action so that they don’t happen in the future.

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