News from Hillsborough High School in Tampa, Fla.

We need gun control policy change and action

February 20, 2018

Creative Commons

Creative Commons

After 19-year-old, depressed Nikolas Cruz murdered 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, President Donald Trump offered “prayers and condolences.” But with 30 mass shootings just this year as of Feb. 14, according to the Gun Violence Archive, we need more than just prayers and condolences. We need change. 

A report by the Switzerland-based Small Arms Survey depicts that although the US is less than 5 percent of the world’s population, it has 35-50 percent of the world’s civilian-owned guns. Places like Australia, Japan and Israel have tighter gun control legislation, and all have lower rates of gun violence. 

Yes, the Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms, but gun purchases need to be more controlled. 

Some argue that terrorists will evade the laws to acquire guns. Countless gun owners claim to have the intention of protecting themselves. However, the only purpose of an automatic gun or of bump stocks, the device the Las Vegas shooter used that made his semiautomatic gun a legal machine gun, is to commit mass murders. Citizens, with the exception of the military or police force, have no need to continuously fire rounds.

Background checks are necessary to prevent mentally disabled individuals from purchasing guns such as Cruz who bought an AR-15-style rifle legally.

However, when modest bills were introduced, Congress did not pass any. 

At this point with Republican control in both houses, Congress is less likely to pass laws concerning gun control. While majorities in both parties support some gun control measures, the Republicans oppose stricter gun laws.

In Pew’s latest Poll, 79 percent of Republicans and 20 percent of Democrats favor protecting gun ownership rights. Donald Trump has also consistently supported these rights. On the contrary, the same poll discovered that 51 percent of Americans want to limit gun access, although the number has decreased. 

While more citizens may support gun control, Gallup found 30 percent of gun advocates vote based on gun policy over the 20 percent of those who support gun control. Gun owners also converse with public officials more and as a result, Congressmen are pressured into voting against gun control. 

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has given tens of millions of dollars in checks to Congress. It is outrageous that money sways politicians so heavily on serious laws like these. 

After the Las Vegas shooting, Congress left gun regulation in the hands of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.  

But nothing has changed. There are still shootings and the government remains inactive. 

We NEED to be more vocal. Why are we allowing gun advocates take control of government regulations and of our safety? 

In a speech the day after the shooting, Trump promised to establish legislation “to help secure our schools and tackle the issue of mental health,” with no mention of guns. Although mental health and school security are important, guns are the cause of 64 percent of all homicides, according to BBC, and this needs to be addressed. 

The USA’s priorities are inverted when people are more concerned with keeping their guns rather than preventing more deaths. 

More than 30,000 die each year in the US due to gun violence, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We need to stop this massive loss of innocent life, of children with dreams for the future and of teachers and good people who are willing to die for others.  

Gun control is more than a political debate; it concerns the lives and safety of children. The deaths can be lowered by making it harder to kill.

Education builds the future of our nation. As students learn how to navigate politics and how to form their own beliefs, knowledge and identity, they become better citizens to contribute to the country with an active role. With each school shooting, fear builds where it should not be.

When will the killings of the future of our country be enough for government to alter the laws? 

In the midst of these tragedies, there will always be true heroes. The coach Aaron Feis put himself between his students and the gunfire. Geography teacher Scott Beigel also died as he let fleeing students into his classroom. 

Other victims had plans for college, passions and their whole lives ahead of them. 

To commemorate these individuals, we need to fight for what could have prevented their deaths. As students, we can protest Congress and continue to argue for legislation.  

Across Canada and the US, a student walkout will be held on Feb. 21 at noon. “…we want students to attend school and then promptly WALK-OUT,” the organizers of National School Walkout said. “Sit outside and peacefully protest. Make some noise. Voice your thoughts.” Students may wear orange, the color of the anti-gun violence movement.

Another peaceful protest is on March 14 at 10 a.m. in every time zone. Students will gather in the streets for 17 minutes, for each loss, in protest of congressional inaction. Organized by Women’s March Youth EMPOWER, a division of the Women’s March, the coordinators encourage wearing orange. 

We need to also take a stand. By our lack of interest or response, the government will continue to do nothing.  

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