Amelia Smith ’17
Yesterday morning shortly after 7 a.m. a loud “pop” was heard at Sparks Middle School in Nevada. Soon after teachers and students began running for their lives as yet another school shooting commenced. At the end of the day two boys were sent to the hospital in critical condition, while a teacher and the shooter were killed. The Reno Gazette-Journal quoted Kyle Nucum, a student at Sparks, recount how he had seen the teacher Mike Landsberry tell the assailant to put the gun down right before the student fired, killing him instantly.
With every shooting a new debate over legislation on gun control arises. Gun control laws vary from State to State. For example, in the District of Columbia would-be gun owners must not only obtain a permit clearing them to own a firearm, but as well have this permit present to purchase the weapon, register it as such, and undergo a background check as well as testing. Further still, there is a ban on assault weapons and large capacity magazines of more than a 10 rounds. On the other hand, in my home state of Florida none of these regulations exist. However, after the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case ruling this year, Florida lawmakers are beginning to scrutinize the Stand Your Ground Laws, gun control regulation more broadly, as well as the role of mental illness and it relation to gun violence. During its last legislative session a law was passed in the Florida House of Representatives and Senate that prohibits the purchase of a firearm by someone suffering from a mental illness.
Most recently the Supreme Court declined to hear a case upholding Maryland’s standing firearm’s legislation. Currently residents of Maryland must demonstrate reasonable cause for a permit to carry a handgun in public. This is in accordance with laws in California, New Jersey, New York, Hawaii, and Massachusetts Maryland has also passed new statutes, in affect on October 1, 2013. These new laws ban over 45 types of assault weapons and require fingerprinting of those with gun licenses.
A logical response to a series of mass shootings would be to demand for tighter gun control. However, according to David Sherfinski of the Washington Times a recent poll shows that less than 50% of Americans are in favor of stricter gun control laws. This is a nearly 10% drop from the same poll taken after the Newton, Connecticut shooting. National Rifle Association spokesmen Andrew Arulanandam said , “I think [the American people] understand and they agree with the NRA that in order to reduce crime and reduce the instances of mass shootings, we need to fix our broken mental health system, we need to increase prosecutions of our violent crimes and we need to provide a blanket of security for children in our schools.”
On the other side, The Philadelphia Experiment blogger Solomon Jones argues that we live in a new world and must adapt to what is happening around us. He argues that had the Newton, Connecticut shooter used a knife or club he would not have been able to inflict nearly as much damage as he did with his mother’s Bushmaster Rifle.
I agree with Arulanandam’s statement that mental health is the underlining issue with all of the public shootings we have seen this year. Our mental health system needs to be reevaluated. Unfortunately, mental health is one of those issues that no one wants to talk address, as it is so complicated. I also feel the need for national laws regarding gun control. I believe in the Second Amendment, but don’t see a need for assault weapons or high-capacity magazines to be available for purchase. Solomon Jones argued in his article that the founding fathers most likely did not see their muskets evolving into the AK 47’s of today. I am in favor of mandatory background checks in order to obtain a gun license.
It seems to me that public shootings are becoming a part of our everyday lives. It’s almost as if one occurs every month. What do I find the most distressing? That I do not find myself shocked when I hear about these mass shootings. How many people must die in such a way before our lawmakers feel moved to pass legislation regarding gun control?