Never Again Movement: It’s time to demand common sense gun laws from Congress

Olivia Bratton, Copy Editor

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Headline after headline, a new tragedy involving gun violence is broadcasted. Thousands of innocent lives have been lost, but somehow, it is still not enough devastation for our government to make a change. The United States Congress needs to initiate legislation that will decrease gun violence in America.

On February 14, in the second mass shooting of the year, a 19 year old gunman opened fire with an AR-15 style assault rifle at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The mass shooting killed 17 people.

In 2018 alone, Parkland was the third school shooting and one of the most fatal. According to the Washington Post, beginning with Columbine in 1999, more than 150,000 students have experienced a shooting at their school.

The tragedy in Parkland was different than others. Students affected by the Parkland calamity, turned their grieving into action. They ignited communities across the nation to speak their opinions on gun control and plea for a safer America.

John Paul Stevens, an American Lawyer who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court for 35 years, recently wrote an article regarding his stance on gun reform. He addressed his support for the recent student-led movement that has rocked our nation.

“These demonstrations demand our respect. They reveal the broad public support for legislation to minimize the risk of mass killings of schoolchildren and others in our society,” said Stevens.

Stevens proposes multiple legislation changes including restrictions of semi-automatics, higher age requirements for purchasing a gun, and more comprehensive background checks. Most stimulating of all, the associate justice calls for a repeal of the second amendment.

Although it was not to the same extent that Stevens is advocating for, the United States has visited the idea of a federal assault weapons ban before.

According to the Washington Post, the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 included a ban on 18 specific assault weapons, firearms with military features, and high capacity magazines. The ban expired after 10 years and allowed gun owners to keep the weapons previously in their possession.

Was this a quality solution?

It is unclear if the ban was the answer to all aspects of the United States’ gun epidemic. While gun violence did fall in the 1990s, it was possibily due to other factors.

However, the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 made a clear impact in one way: reducing the quantity and lethality of mass shootings.

During the ban, the amount of gun massacres decreased by 37 percent compared to the 10 years prior, according to the Washington Post. In addition, the amount of people dying due to gun violence declined by 43 percent.

Reinstituting a federal assault weapons ban would make America a safer place and save many lives. Despite this, Congress fails to have taken any action. The government cannot even take the time to agree upon the ban of bumpstocks, the extensions that allow semi-automatic weapons to fire like fully automatic machine guns.

There are also pleas for even simpler gun regulations. However, Congress ignores solutions such as a more effective age limit and stricter background checks.

If an U.S. Citizen is not old enough to rent a car or drink alcohol, they should not be able to legally purchase and possess a weapon capable of such devastation. Increasing the age requirement for buying a gun to 21 would be a start to more definitive restrictions.

Also, universal background checks would be a step in the right direction for addressing the mental illness issue among gun owners; they would ensure that destructive weapons are not in the hands of the wrong people.

As it stands now, citizens can almost instantly acquire a weapon in the United States. According to the New York Times, around a third of American gun owners did not complete a background check before purchasing their weapons; the federal laws do not require a background check when the purchase is through a private seller.

Not only do expanded background checks need to become required for all purchases, but a waiting period should also be established.

Seventeen U.S. states and the District of Columbia already have delays of two to seven days between the purchase and delivery of the gun in effect, according to the National Academy of Sciences. Additionally, the research conducted at the Harvard Business School suggests that waiting periods were linked to a 19% decrease in gun homicides and a 7-11% decrease in suicides in a year.

While these adjustments will not entirely solve our country’s gun problem, they are a first step in the right direction. The United States government needs to start implementing solutions to combat the violence that haunts our nation; no American citizen should live in fear of losing their life.

Survivor of the Parkland School Shooting, freshman Christine Yared said, “If you have any heart, or care about anyone or anything, you need to be an advocate for change. Don’t let any more children suffer like we have. Don’t continue this cycle. This may not seem relevant to you. But next time it could be your family, your friends, your neighbors. Next time, it could be you.”

Americans are calling out to their government to protect them; it is time that Congress listens.

If you are passionate about a safer America and more gun regulations, contact your elected officials or donate to groups working to reduce gun violence like the CSGV.