As many of you may know a shooting occurred recently at the Walmart in Thornton, CO. Three people are pronounced dead, and no others have been reported as injured. Despite its apparent grueling nature, many people are using this recent shooting as a way of addressing gun policy issues in the United States. As a journalist, it is most important to corroborate evidence in an objective manner, and not give way to sensationalism. Whether or not stricter gun laws would be beneficial is not a matter of personal opinion, but one that can be dissected rationally by examining statistics on gun usage in the country, while weighing the probabilities of homicides by firearms in the future.
As details on the Thornton shooting come pouring in, relevant eye-witness accounts also begin to unfold. One notable detail is that some civilians on the ground that evening were armed themselves. It was mentioned by eye-witnnesses that several people drew their own weapons once they understood the severity of the situation. No shots were reported towards the perpetrator, but the idea that many people could’ve defended themselves if the situation had escalated further made some feel more protected.
According to the BBC, 40% of Americans either own a gun, or live in a household with a gun. This stark statistic is higher than any other country in the world. The U.S. also has the highest homicide rate by guns – 64%, while Canada has 30.5%. There has been 90 mass shootings in the U.S. since the mid 1980’s, and 33,594 people died by firearms in 2014. Taking this information in, we can begin to see that the United States is a country that is somewhat obsessed with guns. To see the benefit or detriment of this we must begin to look at the opinion of the public. Within our political system we are widely divided by blue and red – Democrats vs. Republicans. These opposing political parties vastly differ in many issues and policies, and gun control is no exception.
Of course there are some crossovers where both parties agree on a policy. According to a poll by the Pew Research Center, both Democrats and Republics completely agreed that the mentally ill should be banned from purchasing firearms altogether. Both parties also seemed to agree that people on any type of watch list or no-fly list should also be banned from purchasing/owning firearms. Where a division becomes greatly apparent is in the two parties’ view on open carry laws. Republicans highly agree that teachers and school staff should be allowed to openly carry on school campuses, while Democrats highly disagree. In many states as well, Republicans continue to push the limits of open carry laws by “exercising” their First Amendment right to bear arms. The right to open carry is currently accepted by 31 states, yet the tastefulness of such acts in light of the plethora of mass shootings that occur is highly debatable.
Let’s get real for a moment. The murders that occur as a result of firearms are ALL horrendous. Innocent people die as a result, and the pain and grief that succumb are unfathomable to most. But the fact is, many people do not want to look at situations objectively. Gun control is no different. As a student at a university who does not own any firearms currently, I am not one to contain any substantial bias towards this subject. The reassurance of having TSA in all U.S. airports is a prime example. As a result of 9/11, the Transportation Security Administration began to pop up all over the country. Ironically though, statistics question whether or not the TSA is an efficient branch of Homeland Security. Gun control is along the same lines.
According to Crimeresearch.org, most if not all countries that banned firearms historically actually saw an increase in crime as a result. The countries mentioned in this study were Britain, Wales, Ireland, Jamaica, and the United States. The reasons for this increase are somewhat ambiguous, but points towards a real question that many people don’t want to consider: Would the ban of firearms actually halt crime?
For such a large topic, more data and evidence should be considered. For now, let us all question what efficient gun policies would look like, and how to fairly and ethically implement them. Such a heated conversation is bound to incite emotional responses from many, including myself. Let us all try to remain objective and levelheaded, and hopefully we can begin to implement ideas that bring long-lasting positive change to all.