How many more mass shooting will it take before America admits that the Second Amendment needs revision

Since the year began, the United States has seen 294 mass shootings. Of those, 45 occurred in schools—the latest occurring in Roseburg, Oregon at Umpqua Community College on the 1st of October, 2015. Here, a 26-year-old man went into a school carrying three pistols and a rifle, along with massive amounts of ammunition, killing ten students, and injuring seven others.

The gunman, later identified as Chris Harper Mercer, was killed in a shootout with the police.

This tragic shooting follows a pattern that stretches back to the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, and has continued throughout the years in institutions such as Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook—not to mention more recent mass shootings like the 2012 shooting at a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado, and the July shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina.

And after it all, we find ourselves asking the same, exhaustive question: why do these events occur?

There are many reasons, ranging from mental illness to education. Some even put the blame on violent video games and Hollywood films. But even so, in countries like Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Canada, where owning a gun is just as ingrained in the culture as it is in the U.S., these mass shootings just don’t seem to happen with the same frequency—nor with the same ferocity.

And while there are many things that factor into why and how a person can walk into a school with guns strapped to their back, ready to shoot, one of the largest factors that needs to be addressed is the ease with which Americans can get their hands on these weapons in the first place.

In the United States, getting your hands on a gun isn’t as hard as you might think.

For the most part, a person can walk into any big chain store or gun shop, show an ID, fill out a form, and head home with a gun.

According to the Second Amendment in the United States Bill of Rights, ‘the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed’. Thus, every American citizen has the right to own a gun. And if you want one, you probably won’t have a hard time getting one.

When buying guns from a store, a background check is conducted. The buyer is asked if they are mentally fit, and if they have ever been convicted of a felony. The store then contacts the FBI who do a quick, and relatively basic, search on the person.

Less than 1 per cent of people who apply for a gun are denied.

After that, the laws start to vary. Depending on the state, other checks might be set in place. In some states like Massachusetts, New York, and California, a gun licence is required to own a gun. This requires the buyer to go through a number of steps, like taking a firearms safety course, before they are even eligible to carry a gun.  Further, in states like these it is mandatory that one registers their gun to a national database.

But while certain states have these rules and regulations set in place, more than half of the country doesn’t. That means in states like Texas and Vermont, you can decide, on a whim, to buy a gun and the odds are that within a short time that gun is yours. There is no registry; there is no permit requirement. And there are even some states that allow for the possession of automatic weapons.

Laws differ depending on the type of gun. For instance, laws on handguns are stricter than those on hunting rifles. But it still holds true that the regulations set in place when it comes to buying and owning guns are making it all too easy for people to acquire these weapons.

There have been multiple attempts to introduce stricter gun legislation. President Obama tried in 2013 to add legislation that would expand federal background checks and require all gun owners to register their weapons. The Bill, however, failed to make it through Congress.

But in light of the recent massacre, President Obama has once again called for a change.

‘When Americans are killed in mine disasters, we work to make mines safer. When Americans are killed in floods and hurricanes, we make communities safer. When roads are unsafe, we fix them. To reduce auto fatalities, we have seatbelt laws because we know it saves lives’, he said.

‘So the notion that gun violence is somehow different, that our freedom and our constitution prohibits any modest regulation of how we use a deadly weapon—when there are law-abiding gun owners all across the country who could hunt, protect their families and do everything they do under those regulations— doesn’t make sense’.

And he’s not wrong. With nearly every man, woman, (and even child) able to own a gun, free of restriction or regulation, how are we, as a society, supposed to keep this trend of death and destruction from continuing?

It’s a question surrounded by constant controversy, but one that demands an urgent resolution—before we turn on the news on a Thursday afternoon, only to hear of another shooting that could have been prevented.

 

Sources:

http://shootingtracker.com/wiki/Mass_Shootings_in_2015

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/02/us/oregon-shooting-umpqua-community-college.html?_r=0

https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/nics/general-information/fact-sheet

http://money.cnn.com/2015/06/19/news/guns-background-checks/

http://edition.cnn.com/2015/10/01/us/oregon-college-shooting/

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/oct/01/obama-gun-control-laws-oregon-umpqua-community-college-shooting

http://www.billofrightsinstitute.org/founding-documents/bill-of-rights/

https://www.atf.gov/file/58536/download