Every single day, 109 Americans died in the year 2017 due to gun violence. Every single day. And that number hasn’t gotten any better. We can look to the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting where 20 six and seven-year-olds were shot and killed. We can look more recently to the 2019 El Paso shooting where a white supremacist walked straight into Walmart, opened fire killing 23 people, who simply went to get their groceries that day. This all brings me to my central point, implementing gun control in the United States. Today, I want to discuss some of the most shocking statistics, debunk opposition arguments, and propose a plan for how we can end this public safety epidemic.
Gun control is a very polarizing word, and it’s unfortunate to see people misusing the word to tear down the cause. Let’s clarify what gun control means. Gun control, and I quote from Oxford, is “the regulation of the sale and use of firearms.” Simple as that. No, it does not mean government officials are storming into your house and taking your guns by force, and no, it does not mean stripping the second amendment from the constitution. Gun control is merely keeping in check who has access to guns and keeping guns away from those who shouldn’t be possessing them, such as criminals or those with mental illness.
Before we lay out a plan to decrease and end gun violence, it is crucial to listen to the other side on why they oppose gun control, so let’s discuss some arguments against this cause. The first argument is that the 2nd amendment of the Constitution allows us to bear arms, so gun control is unconstitutional. Let’s debunk this point. The constitution was signed into law on September 17, 1787. Almost 250 years ago. It is simply ignorant to believe that every aspect of a document drafted nearly ten generations ago should be strictly applied to the situation we live in today. Now, again, I am not saying we should get rid of the 2nd amendment altogether, but that we simply cannot use it as an excuse to stop common-sense gun control measures from passing and saving countless lives. Another argument used in opposition to gun control is that “guns don’t kill people, people do.” This argument seems simply oblivious to me, as I’m sure everyone listening right now knows that guns are what people use to harm others. It is not a matter of saying guns don’t shoot themselves, so we can forget about this issue, but a matter of making sure that people who shouldn’t be in possession of guns don’t get ahold of them. For example, criminals and people with mental illness should not own or have access to firearms. It isn’t just a matter of them harming others, but a matter of harming themselves as well. This point isn’t a topic that receives much attention, but we have to speak about this, as nearly ⅔ of all gun deaths in the US are suicides, and firearm suicides make up half of all suicides according to Everytown For Gun Safety. By keeping guns away from people fighting mental health issues, we can preserve their lives, get them the help they need, and give them a new start to their lives. Overall, we have to move past these two arguments and realize that they hinder the progress we can make in saving thousands of lives every year.
Now let’s talk about what measures we can implement to end this problem. The first measure I propose is as simple as requiring a permit to own a gun. Some of you may be shocked at this statement and think that a permit is already required to purchase and own a gun; however, according to the State Firearms Law project, just 7 states in the U.S. require a permit to purchase a gun of any kind. Some argue that laws requiring permits don’t work, but an example showing us the opposite dates back to a 2014 study in the Journal of Urban Health. This study found that when my home state of Missouri repealed its permit-to-purchase handgun law in 2007, we saw a 25% increase in firearms homicide rates. This shows us that implementing and keeping in place permit-to-purchase laws do, in fact, have a positive effect in decreasing gun violence. Another step we can take in ending this public health epidemic is investing in smart gun technology. So what is this technology? Smart gun technology works like fingerprint access on a phone. Just as you would need to know the password or have the right fingerprint to unlock your phone, smart gun technology on guns works similarly, where it uses biometrics to identify a weapon’s rightful owner while locking it for everyone else. A majority of gun-buyers also support this technology. In 2016, a study by Johns Hopkins University found that almost 60% of Americans considering purchasing a handgun would be willing to make it a smart gun.
All in all, gun control is a very polarizing subject, and there are many arguments for and against it. But, it comes down to understanding that sensible gun regulation such as permit-to-purchase does help decrease gun deaths and injuries across the country. It comes down to understanding that we cannot look to the 2nd amendment of the Constitution written 250 years ago and use it as an excuse not to implement reasonable gun safety measures. And it comes down to understanding that implementing new ideas such as smart gun technology would be a critical factor in preserving Americans’ rights to bear arms and keeping us in a safe society without mass shootings. It’s all about coming together as a nation, and I have faith that soon we will put an end to this public safety epidemic.