America, Guns and Living in Fear of Machines We Could Control
Few challenges we face as a society are more confusing than the threat of public shootings. Crime rates in America have been declining for years. We recognize that as a win.
We understand causality — for example, we have chosen to recycle and drive greener cars so that we can enjoy a clean living environment. But we still haven't seen enough gun violence to take a stand against this problem. In the aftermath of the horrific recent shooting at Florida school Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, citizens are once again asking — how far does this have to go? How many must die before we actually do something?
America may have a short history compared to other parts of the world, but red, white and blue values are carved into the core of our national identity. It has become painfully clear how dearly we hold the right to own guns among the most precious of those values. The NRA and far-right groups have dug themselves in, promoting a position that Americans should not be stripped of their rights: that to give up guns would constitute an encroachment on peoples’ fundamental civil liberties. However, multiple surveys show that the majority of Americans want stricter gun laws.
In Australia, all it took was one. One incident in 1996 — the Port Arthur massacre — in which 35 people died, led to a government buyback program that reduced the number of guns in public possession by more than 20 percent. Waiting periods and background checks were established and enforced, and the number of gun-related deaths dropped to .87 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2013.
In the United States, that number as of 2016 is 3.85. Of the 195 countries on Earth, America has the 31st highest rate of gun deaths. Germany scores a 0.12, and the UK gets a .07. To be more at risk of gun violence than you are in the US, you would have to visit somewhere like Colombia, Brazil or Jamaica, where gun-related crime is a part of everyday life. And yet we forget to keep talking about gun control until another horror story hits the news.
America is like a junky who can't get clean
Part of the reason America suffers so many gun-related deaths is that it's easy for people to acquire guns. The public owns so many weapons that criminals don't need to go to the trouble of buying one. Instead, they can just steal one. And they don't just take handguns — automatic rifles were designed to kill, and we have seen what they are capable of in the wrong hands.
Right now in the United States, a shooting can occur anywhere. Our most sacred institutions have been violated. Schools and churches are no longer just points of concern — they have become targets. We live in fear of machines we could choose to control. America is like a junky who can't get clean.
In 2017 alone, America saw one of the worst school shootings in modern history, the worst mass killing in U.S. history take place in the middle of a Las Vegas concert, and 26 people killed while attending church in rural Texas. There were more deaths from mass shootings than days in the year.
We have no excuse to be complacent. Some people may want to do drugs, but narcotics such as crack cocaine and heroin are still illegal because they ruin lives. So, we control these substances and create programs to mitigate their impacts. Guns, particularly the automatic weapons used in so many mass killings, shouldn't get a pass because some people enjoy using and owning them.
President Trump has made a statement on the shooting in Florida wherein he discusses tackling mental health problems in the states, but makes no mention of gun control. This is a grave injustice to the victims and to public safety. We have lost more than 1,200 American lives. How is that not enough for us to sacrifice owning weapons so that others can enjoy security? Is that really too much to ask?
Safety and security in our daily lives is a basic human right. It's not even on the same playing field as one's right to own a gun. We need to be honest with ourselves about that and do the right thing.
About the author
Born in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Kate Harveston is a recent college graduate and an aspiring journalist. She enjoys writing about social change and human rights issues, but she has written on a wide variety of other topics as well.
She blogs on social and cultural issues at Only Slightly Biased.
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