Blowing the Lid Off: Gun Violence in America
December 28, 2015
The topic of gun violence in the United States has remained in the public consciousness since the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado. The Second Amendment guarantees citizens the right to bear arms but the prevalence of gun violence in America puts into question its place in society.
Recent shootings in America within the past month, ranging from the abortion clinic shooting in Colorado Springs to the shooting in San Bernardino, display the unintended consequences of the Second Amendment.
“There’s too much violence going on,” freshman Leecyett Robinson said. “Innocent people are getting hurt.”
The Columbine massacre marked the beginning of mass shootings as a commonplace event; prior events occurred, at most, on a once-per-year basis. San Bernardino marks the 355th mass shooting in America in 2015 alone. This number stands in stark contrast to other developed nations in the West like Germany or Italy; these two countries average fewer than 150 deaths annually. The United States averages 30,000 gun homicides per year.
The differences between the European nations and United States lie in gun control laws. Italy requires two different gun licenses – one to purchase guns and one to be allowed to carry it. Italy also requires taking a course before applying for a purchasing license as well as a declaration of a clean criminal record and of a history of not abusing drugs or alcohol.
“No one wakes up one morning and decides to kill people,” senior LeMarian Williams said. “The increased gun violence is because of gun laws. It’s easier to get a gun in America.”
American gun shows exist as a secondary market where private sellers can sell guns without performing background checks that a store would need to do in accordance with the law. Those who would typically fail a background check would then be granted access to guns.
The influence of the National Rifle Association of America (NRA) in Congress is well-documented; the association donated to 236 Republicans and 25 Democrats in Congress in 2012. That number totals to 60% of Congress.
A majority of NRA members believe in some form of gun control even when their organization lobbies for the exact opposite – 69% of NRA members support background checks before purchasing a firearm and 77% also support a waiting period between purchasing a gun and receiving the firearm.
“The gun violence is overrated,” senior Carlos Ramos said. “The media just talks about guns.”
Sensationalism in the news provides a skewed view of reality and as a result has led many to believe that gun violence in America is on the rise. A study conducted by the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics found that gun violence in America has steadily declined since the 1990s. A Pew Research Center study found that 59% of Americans believe that gun violence has steadily risen.
“Since the recent shootings I don’t feel as safe,” freshman Leecyett Robinson said. “I don’t go out as much anymore because of it.”
This misconception exists in part due to the media’s coverage of tragedies like murders and shootings. A Pew Research Center study analyzed the number of people watching the news over the past three decades as well as the contents of news that they preferred to watch. Television viewership dipped in the 1990’s in part due to the sense of economic and political wellbeing of the era. The surge in perceived violence in the 21st century reinvigorated news viewership. War and terrorism in the United States tops the levels of what people watch closely in the news – 43 percent of people polled follow that category in the news.
“When I get in power – I’m going to be the second black president,” senior LeMarian Williams said. “It will be my first duty of office to regulate guns and the influence it has on our country.”