The U.S. media is constantly reporting on a mass shooting, in what seems like every few weeks. Casualties from gun violence are so prevalent, we almost have become numb to them and feel like we are waiting for the next one. In a rare, but tragic event, one survivor of the Las Vegas shooting of 2017 was killed in the Thousand Oaks shooting in California just months ago.
Mass shootings persist, especially since the highly publicized high school mass shooting in Parkland, Florida that left 17 dead. The Parkland shooting disaster is proving to be a catalyst in changing gun control laws throughout the country, as embodied in the #MarchForOurLives movement and #NeverAgain hashtags spurred by student shooting survivors. Millions around the country marched for tighter gun laws nearly a year ago on March 24, 2018. The next month, students around the country left their classes for 17 minutes on Columbine’s shooting anniversary out of respect for victims and in a plea to protect themselves from future violence. Since the shooting, many of these Parkland High School survivors have expedited the process in which gun laws are passed throughout the nation.
Within a week’s time, Parkland’s students and parents of victims rushed to the state’s capital to rally for tighter gun control laws. Florida legislators signed a bill into law and increased the age to purchase a rifle from 18 to 21, the waiting time to purchase a gun, and banned bump stocks, which allow a firearm to shoot in rapid succession. Florida legislators changed their perception towards the National Rifle Association, a bold move before primary elections.
As Parkland’s students have ignited a fire in favor of stricter gun control, they have influenced the whole country, either solidifying or hardening people’s opinions towards gun control in all settings. Their expert use of social media has spread the message and kept the conversation present. Media interviews directly after the disaster made real their terror and passion towards tighter gun control. Since February 2018, 50 gun laws have been changed in 25 states, 10 of which have banned bump stocks. These states fall on both sides of the political spectrum.
Gun control is currently defined as anything that restricts or allows someone to purchase a firearm. It sets regulations in terms of where and when they are able to do so. Gun control also regulates what information regarding the gun is reported to the government. Current federal law states the buyer must be at least 18 years old, although handguns are restricted to buyers who are at least 21. Licensed dealers are required under federal law to conduct a background check among buyers. Potential gun owners that have a mental illness, a criminal background, or are drug addicts are some of those that are prohibited from owning a gun. However, a loophole in the federal law does not monitor private sellers, who are able to sell firearms at events such as gun shows without requiring a background check.
Just this week, the House passed a bill called H8, which could be the biggest change in gun laws in decades. The bill could close this loophole, requiring a universal background check from private sellers as well. The idea is heavily backed by gun control advocates and is mostly supported by voters on both sides, including gun owners.
There are other pieces of legislation regarding gun control that are awaiting approval from either the House or Senate. The Assault Weapons Ban of 2017, introduced by the Senate Judiciary Committee before the Parkland tragedy, makes it a federal crime to knowingly import, sell, or manufacture a semiautomatic assault weapon. Semiautomatic refers to a weapon that fires repeatedly through an automatic loading process but requires the release of a trigger for successive shots. This bill has not passed onto the House or the Senate. Unfortunately, a nearly identical bill was presented by the House six days after the Parkland shooting and remains to be passed through both chambers. This chronic reluctance to pass a bill banning semiautomatic weapons is a national disgrace to those who suffer from its violent consequences.
The Second Amendment right to bear arms is proving a heavily guarded one as gun control legislation is difficult to pass in Congress. Even with Democrats as a new majority in the House of Representatives this year, gun control bills are slow to pass through both chambers since Parkland’s shooting. Republican support from the National Rifle Association makes the passage of gun-control bills from the political right rare.
We are years and years away from a more balanced, gun-controlled society. How do we preserve our Second Amendment rights while still protecting ourselves from its liberties? What is required to enact more efficient gun control laws?
Change occurs through movements, led by outspoken, tireless leaders. Compromise on all sides of the political spectrum is required in order to establish a more perfect Union. If lawmakers are willing to come together in agreement in an effort to preserve the safety and security of the American people over tenaciously following strict party ideologies, we will see progress.
For the #MarchForOurLives movement to gain momentum in the hopes of garnering more stringent #guncontrol, we need to keep talking about it. Let’s keep this crucial conversation present and real in our minds, without the precious cost of life.
Photo Source: Alex Gillett