On May 24, an 18-year-old male suspect opened fire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas where 19 children and 2 teachers were shot and killed and another 17 were wounded.
Just 10 days before, an 18-year-old white male opened fire at a Tops grocery store in Buffalo, New York, in a hate-fueled murder spree and killed 10 Black shoppers while injuring 3 more.
Mass shootings unfortunately have become an all too familiar story and sight in the United States, and, worse, it is a growing epidemic. Government and state officials come and go, all giving their support and prayers to victims and their families and pledging that this tragedy will not happen again, yet here we are, with another mass shooting, with such incidents increasing more than 50% over the past year, according to FBI information obtained by NBC News.
While such horrible events cannot be completely prevented, they can be drastically reduced through stricter gun control measures, such as having universal and rigorous background checks on anyone who purchases a gun, raising the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21, and establishing support and access to mental health resources for troubled people who are at risk of committing violent acts.
Background check laws are put in place to prevent purchases of firearms by individuals who present a high risk to themselves and others. By restricting dangerous individuals from purchasing a weapon, these laws can drastically reduce gun crimes and violence.
Having more rigorous and universal background checks, such as having every state be required to do background checks on people who purchase weapons and increasing the duration of the check will help prevent access to weapons for troubled individuals.
According to a study published by Rand Corporations on background checks, over 40% of inmates who acquired a gun from a friend, family member or elsewhere had disqualifying factors, such as prior felony conviction, being underaged, or having dishonorable discharge.
People like this should have been prevented from obtaining a weapon, and had they undergone stricter background checks, they would not have gotten their hands on such dangerous weapons. Having these rigorous background checks may do little to stop the illegal selling of firearms, but they can at a minimum prevent dangerous and unfit individuals from obtaining new weapons.
Another course of action that must be taken is raising the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21. Following the Uvalde and Buffalo mass shooting, where both suspects were 18-year-old males and were able to buy a semi-automatic rifle, it should be clear that 18-year-olds and people below that age should not be permitted to purchase such weapons at all.
There is also a science behind such a decision — a teenager’s brain’s frontal lobe, the area that controls decision making, planning and judgment, is still in development and thus it would be dangerous to place such dangerous weapons like firearms into their hands.
Since their brains are not fully developed and mature yet, allowing teenagers and young adults to acquire such a weapon would pose a threat to themselves and the people around them. Just like how the minimum age to drink is 21, it does not make sense at all how teenagers are able to buy firearms to perpetrate such horrific incidents.
Lastly, the root cause of America’s gun problem is not the weapons themselves, but rather the person who perpetrates such events and their situations and mental conditions.
As gun violence in America grows, it is becoming increasingly clear that the perpetrators are often not mentally well and unstable, often suffering from problems early on such as family issues, being in poverty, and being bullied by their peers. Frequently, these unfortunate circumstances can lead to a person developing mental illnesses and becoming violent as they are unable to seek the help they need.
In a study published by U.S. News discussing the mental illnesses that many mass shooters suffer from, the article shows how many perpetrators had conditions that they were not being treated for. Many shooters were diagnosed with schizophrenia, personality disorders or substance use disorder that were not treated.
In order to get troubled individuals, help, it is first important to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illnesses in order to enable people to receive the health care they need to improve their lives and reduce the risk of them turning violent and committing crimes.
Despite such horrific incidents increasing over the years, many lawmakers in America are still opposed to imposing such changes and rules. Lawmakers pledge in the aftermath of such events that they pray for the loved ones of victims and claim that they will do everything they can to prevent such tragedy in the future, however, take no action. Just praying for victims will not prevent the next mass shooting, and thus it is important to act now and take these 3 basic steps in order to ensure a safer future for America.
Gun violence is an urgent problem in the United States. We have solutions.