Opinion: Hey, hey, NRA! How many kids did you kill today?

On June 1, 2016, Sierra Canyon English teacher Victoria Zielinski went on the UCLA campus to produce a promotional film. While she was on campus, a student fatally shot a UCLA professor and himself. Zielinski was put on lockdown for three hours, in a building very close to where the shooting occurred. “We live in a…
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Ben Reicher

October 30, 2017

On June 1, 2016, Sierra Canyon English teacher Victoria Zielinski went on the UCLA campus to produce a promotional film. While she was on campus, a student fatally shot a UCLA professor and himself. Zielinski was put on lockdown for three hours, in a building very close to where the shooting occurred.

“We live in a world where gun violence is becoming something that’s almost expected, and that makes me very sad. We need to do something about violence in our culture, to prevent this kind of thing from happening as frequently as it does,” Zielinski said.

Following the deadliest shooting in American history in Las Vegas, it is impossible to not understand that this gun violence epidemic will not be stopped without a drastic rise in gun control.

Automatic weapons must be unconditionally banned, as there is no reason someone would need something that powerful for innocuous purposes like hunting or home defense. As the Las Vegas shooting demonstrated, bump stocks (which allow for semiautomatic weapons to be made automatic) must be banned as well. All guns should be equipped with technology (“smart guns”) that allows them to only be fired by the licensed buyer (for example, via fingerprint identification), in case the gun is stolen or sold privately. Background checks should keep someone on a no-fly list from buying a gun. Gun shows must be required to perform background checks; since the “gun show loophole” makes background checks almost useless.

Gun control is much more popular than many believe. In the aftermath of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting in June 2016, 85 percent of Democrats and 90 percent of Republicans supported banning people on the no-fly list from buying guns, according to CNN. After Las Vegas, on Oct. 12 of this year, The Hill reported that 60 percent of poll respondents support stricter gun control, an all-time high. In fact, in 2016 The Guardian found that, of about 265 million guns owned by Americans, 133 million are owned by 3 percent of American adults.

While I do not support taking away the guns people already own (this would almost certainly be illegal, due to the well-established principle against applying laws retroactively), the act of confiscating all privately-owned guns in America might be easier than is commonly thought.

For any other issue, it would be impossible for so little to be accomplished with this level of support. This is solely due to gun lobbyists like the NRA, who defend the right to own absolutely any and all guns because of their fanatical devotion to the Second Amendment– for reasons even they probably don’t understand. With the exception of banning automatic weapons and bump stocks, the items on the above list don’t have anything to do with banning guns, but simply regulating them.

There’s a reason it’s called gun control, not gun abolition. And, the Second Amendment simply refers to the “right to bear arms,” not any and all arms. There already are many weapons (military-grade, for example) that are not commercially available. You have a “right to privacy,” but not in all things: if you make counterfeit money or cook crystal meth, the government won’t care that you did it in the privacy of your own home.

The NRA has hijacked our democracy– at gunpoint. They’ve committed armed robbery against the science that demonstrates unequivocally that fewer guns equals less gun deaths.

Hugh La Follette, an ethics professor from the University of South Florida, determined that whenever there is one person from a gun owning household who successfully defends themselves with a gun by killing the attacker, there are 43 people in a similar gun owning household who die gun-related deaths. Clearly, if America wants to protect its citizens, proliferation  for “self-defense” is the wrong choice. But, that one person who successfully defends themselves is enough reason for me to not call for banning gun ownership completely.

The UK and Australia are just two examples of Western countries that have seen dramatic improvement after passing strict gun control legislation. Both did this following shootings  in 1996: the Dunblane School Massacre in the UK, which killed 17; and the Port Arthur Massacre in Australia, which killed 35. Dunblane led to the banning of almost all handguns in Britain; Australia banned most automatic weapons, placed a 28-day waiting period on purchases, and required buyers to demonstrate that they could store the gun securely.

A 2010 study printed in Oxford Journals found that between 1996-2006 Australian gun homicide fell 59 percent. No mass shootings (where at least five people die) have occurred in Australia since Port Arthur, or school shootings in the UK since Dunblane. Meanwhile, CNN reports that the U.S. has 5 percent of the world population, but 50 percent of its guns.

Violence Policy Center reports that, in 2013, the UK had 0.23 gun deaths per 100,000 people, compared to the United States’ 10.64.  Public Health Professor Simon Chapman of the University of Sydney reports that while America’s population is only 13.7 times higher than Australia’s, America has 134 times as many firearm deaths, and 27 times as many firearm homicides.

One can see the relationship within America as well: VPC found that Hawaii had the lowest gun death rate in 2014, 2.82 per 100,000 people, and had guns in only 12.5 percent of households; Alaska had the highest gun death rate, 19.68, with guns in 56.4 percent of households; and this correlation holds true for all 50 states.

Certain anti-gun control arguments persist, no matter how easy to debunk: for example, that an armed civilian could have stopped it, combined with the argument that shooters target “gun-free” zones. This is empirically false: the LA Times reports that of 160 FBI-designated “active shooting” incidents between 2000 and 2013, only one was stopped by an armed civilian. Of 33 mass public shootings between January 2009 and June 2014, 18 were in places where guns were not explicitly banned or that had armed security.

After Las Vegas, many prominent Republicans repeated the claim that people will find a way to acquire guns even if they are banned. As has been pointed out everywhere from social media to speeches by Congressional Democrats, this stance (like so many other things GOP) is remarkably hypocritical. There are many things Republicans want to regulate or ban, presumably because they believe these measures will be effective: marijuana, same-sex marriage and adoption, voting without a photo ID, and in particular abortion.

Both abortion and guns are supposedly legal– so why the vastly different approaches to both? In recent weeks, social media users have challenged people to imagine buying a gun being as hard as getting an abortion, leading The Huffington Post to conclude that “regulation works.”

After all, an abortion can’t kill 58 people in minutes. One can only conclude that Republicans stop caring about you the moment you are delivered at the hospital. Either that, or Republican politicians don’t care about human life at all, but just can’t stand the idea of women having the control over their bodies and lives that men take for granted.

When it comes down to it, something must be done to stop  gun violence. With it being empirically proven that proliferating gun ownership will not work, pro-gun activists have no legal course of action to suggest, while pro-gun control activists do. In other words, the only thing those against gun control can suggest is maintaining what– as Las Vegas demonstrated– is an increasingly intolerable status quo. If you have no other reason to support gun control, isn’t any plan better than no plan at all?

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