The USA’s status as the country with the most mass shootings has called into question the very meaning of the Second Amendment. According to non-profit Gun Violence Archive, there have been a staggering 1,800 deaths in this year alone and it’s only February.
The Small Arms Survey conducted by Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Switzerland found that Americans own the highest number of guns per capita in the world. To put it into perspective, Americans are more likely to die from gunshots than from skin cancer. While the United States is home to just 5% of the world population, it makes up 31% of mass shooters – a clear anomaly in the developed world.
The most recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida killed 17 students, which has led to a debate on what needs to change. Is it the amount of parental supervision, the attitude of today’s youth, the poor healthcare system, or laws on gun control?
Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old expelled student, was charged last week with premeditated murder. His former classmates described him as a “loner” and “a troubled kid” and many stated they weren’t shocked by his actions given his obsession with guns. A student told WJXT, a news station in Jacksonville, Florida, that “A lot of kids threw jokes around like that, saying that he would be the one to shoot up the school. It turns out, you know, everyone predicted it.”
Cruz was living with a family friend and seemed to be getting his life back on track. His attorney claimed despite his behavioural issues, “Nobody saw it coming and nobody knows why.”
President Trump responded through a tweet, which mentioned nothing about gun control and instead attempted to divert attention to tackling mental health issues. He offered his condolences and stated, “No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school.” He also expressed his disappointment in the FBI, after they admitted they failed to act on a tip regarding Cruz. A “listening session” will be held with President Trump and a few students who survived the shooting.
In addition, former President Barack Obama tweeted last Thursday, “We are grieving with Parkland. But we are not powerless. Caring for our kids is our first job. And until we can honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep them safe from harm, including long overdue, common-sense gun safety laws that most Americans want, then we have to change.” Obama stressed the need for stronger gun control during his entire term but his endeavours to introduce more stringent regulations were rejected by Congress.
Several survivors of the shooting are planning to organize a march in Washington on the 24th of March, urging the need for stricter laws pertaining to gun control. Emma Gonzalez, a senior at Marjory, stated in a Fort Lauderdale rally, “we are going to be the last mass shooting.” Another student, Delaney Tarr, who survived the shooting by hiding in a closet said, “Because of these gun laws, people that I know died. … Because of the systematic failure of our government, at every level, people are dying every day.”
To curb such massacres, U.S. authorities could take cues from other countries that have made efforts to curb gun violence. For instance, in Australia, the government used a major buyback campaign to purchase guns from citizens after the death of 35 people from a shooting in 1996. This move cut the number of gun-violence induced deaths by half in the next 10 years and there have been no mass shootings since. Around the same time, the U.K. also passed legislation spurring a 200 million buyback programme.
Words must be turned into action, the time to play the blame game is over. It is time for politicians to start thinking about changing laws or the number of mass shootings will continue to escalate.