Something is Better than Nothing- The Case for Taking Action Against Mass Shootings
Originally published on March 12, 2018
After the tragic shooting that unfolded at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida, America was thrown into yet another tumultuous debate over gun control. Mass shootings in the US have become shockingly commonplace- the country’s homicides by firearm per 1 million people is 29.7, shockingly high compared to Canada’s 5.1 and Australia’s 1.4- and many Americans believe that some form of action must be taken to prevent them from occurring so often. Unfortunately, addressing this problem has become widely politicized, and no one can agree on the best solution. Some believe that the FBI should play a greater role in investigating people who are exhibiting suspicious behavior; some believe that better efforts ought to be made to combat mental health issues; some believe that training teachers to fire weapons or placing armed guards in schools will address the issue; some believe a widespread ban on all firearms will put an end to the massacres. Despite the conflicting solutions, most Americans agree that, no matter what the course of action, something must be done to address this terrible situation. Whenever a mass shooting occurs, one of the first reactions of pro-gun control Americans is to compare America’s loose gun laws to the stricter gun laws of other nations that typically have a much lower rate of mass shootings than America. Unfortunately, the logic behind the idea that if the United States adopted similar gun laws to such countries, then the frequency of mass shootings would fall significantly is well intentioned but flawed. One of the most compared countries is Australia, which famously issued bans on certain assault rifles and enacted a government buyback scheme that resulted in over 640,000 weapons being turned into authorities after the Port Arthur Massacre that resulted in the deaths of over 35 people. While there is no definitive way to prove that the bans and buyback scheme had a tangible effect, we know one fact for certain: in the 18 years before Port Arthur, there were 13 mass shootings in Australia; since then, there has not been a single one.
To many, this is enough evidence to justify a similar buyback scheme from the US government. Unfortunately, the two cases are just not comparable enough to make such a claim. While there is no definitive number in existence, the estimated number of firearms in the US is around 300 million; the number of guns recalled in Australia is less than one percent of that number. Such a program would be incredibly expensive and difficult to implement. The Second Amendment, the constitutional grounds for a right to firearms, was created so that US citizens could protect themselves from a potentially tyrannical government. Americans who support the Second Amendment could very easily view a mandatory governmental buyback program as the very sort of tyrannical rule that the Second Amendment was created to protect them from in the first place. While it would be hard to deny the success of Australia’s gun control program, it would be unrealistic to expect the American government to achieve similar results with the same plan. Such a plan would be exorbitantly costly and incredibly difficult to implement successfully, with no guarantee of success. The government’s response to alcohol-related violence in the early twentieth century was to effectively ban alcohol consumption with the Eighteenth Amendment; however, that Amendment was repealed only thirteen years later due to its ineffectiveness. A similar outcome may occur if the government used the same approach with firearms.
Another solution that has been presented is increased protection of school buildings. Such protection could include metal detectors at main entrances, armed guards stationed inside the school, or basic firearms training for teachers and staff. While this would certainly make entering school property with a weapon significantly harder, it also raises several concerns. Although one might argue that the value for money is a lot higher with this solution than with the buyback scheme, it would still be very costly and may also present potential problems elsewhere. While arming teachers may seem like a good idea in theory, there is a certain danger to giving firearms to teachers who are already under a lot of mental duress from the strains of educating children. However, the possibility of armed guards in schools is a more feasible solution. Such a policy would create more jobs for the economy, as well as providing potential employment for retired veterans or police officers. This solution offers a more concrete way of dealing directly with the issue at hand, whereas enhanced FBI searches or increased resources for addressing mental health issues would provide an indirect solution, the effectiveness of which would be hard to accurately calculate.
Ultimately, America needs to take action. The school shooting in Florida was reportedly the eighteenth school shooting in 2018; although accounts on this differ due to varying definitions of the term “school shooting,” the statistic alone should be alarming enough to prompt change. Unfortunately, the cycle in America following these mass shootings has become all too familiar: the news breaks, people offer thoughts and prayers, people on one side of the political aisle call for gun control, people on the other side of the political aisle say that politicizing the tragedy is disrespectful to those who died, and ultimately America’s cultural pride in its Constitution, including the Second Amendment, prevent the government from taking any substantial action. At this point, it shouldn’t matter which solution is the best; every single one of them has pros and cons. So long as a potential solution doesn’t have any major logical flaws, it can be considered a viable option. If a solution doesn’t work, repeal it and try again. That’s what the government did during Prohibition, and it can do it again now. The time for deliberating is over; the time for taking action is here.
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