Protestors Demand Stricter Gun Control Laws Outside White House

On February 19, high school students gathered in front of the White House in Washington D.C. for a peaceful gun violence protest. Organized by Teens for Gun Reform, the protest was held five days after the devastating school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Following the shocking event which took 17 lives, the Presidents’ Day was filled with public outcry demanding lawmakers to take action to end gun violence.

During a listening session with survivors and families of the victims, President Donald Trump promised to explore three actions; expanded background checks, mental-health screening and age limits on gun purchases. In conjunction with his pledge, The White House indicated that President Trump was open to supporting a bipartisan effort which aims to revise federal background checks for prospective gun buyers. Additionally, the White House said that President Trump supports the Fix NICS Act which was a bill that pushes federal agencies to better report criminal records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

The protest on Monday included a silent ‘lie-in’ which carried a loud message as the students lay on the ground for a few minutes symbolizing the victims of school shootings. Each ‘lie-in’ lasted only a few minutes which is equivalent to the amount of time for someone, such as the 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz to purchase a gun in America.

Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, an American non-profit organization which advocates for gun control and against gun violence, says that so far in 2018, the average rate of school shootings was as high as 17 per week before the Florida attack. According to the Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit organization that started tracking shootings after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, there had been at least 239 school shootings, with 438 people shot since that massacre in 2012.

One of the most challenging obstacles to gun control laws in America is the protection under the Second Amendment whereby everyone is given the right to own firearms. Malcolm Turnbull, the Prime Minister of Australia admits that the Second Amendment is one of the major differences between Australia and America with regards to background context and history of gun laws and culture. The differences contribute to the reason America has yet to follow Australia’s footsteps in implementing strict gun control laws.

Another hindrance involved is the lack of funding for firearms research. The Dickey Amendment in 1996 indirectly banned Centre for Disease Control and Prevention’s gun research, as the funding from 1996 to 2011 dropped by a staggering 96 percent. Gun violence research should be heavily invested in to provide extensive knowledge and a better understanding of gun policy. Research would be able to prove if stricter laws are sufficient in preventing mass shootings and discovering other necessary methods which are impeded by the low budget. Increased funding for gun research is imperative for researchers to provide accurate answers to the various gun policy questions currently under debate.

At present, President Trump has passed the legislation to ban bump stocks accessories which enable semi-automatic firearms to fire close to the rate of a machine-gun. Unfortunately, gun culture in America has developed over the past two centuries and it will be a long process to reform firearm policies. Therefore, research of firearms in America should be viewed equally important as Trump’s suggestions on the increased age limit and stricter mental health and background checks.

Cherie Gan