It’s Time to Actually Regulate Guns

What should we do about the rising rate of gun violence in the United States?

The United States mourns the loss of elementary and high school students, family members, and loved ones again and again to gun violence, and still we allow for the bloodshed to not only continue but to grow in an ever worsening cycle.

Over 390 million guns are owned in the United States – more than one per person – and about 20 million of these guns are semi-automatic rifles. In 2015, there were 13,576 deaths from gun violence. But in the years since 2020, that number has risen to over 40,000, including more than 1,800 mass shootings, shootings in which there are at least four victims.

As of March 27th, not even a fourth of the way into 2023, 9,893 people in the United States have died from gun-related causes. There have been 130 mass shootings. Over 400 children have lost their lives to gun violence this year alone; guns are the leading cause of death for children in the United States.

The Albuquerque Academy community has witnessed the impacts of gun violence firsthand as several students have lost their lives as a result in the past few years. A national change in gun policy is non-negotiable if we want to prevent this careless loss of innocent life.

The most urgent and obvious legislation should be the banning of semi-automatic weapons. They hold little purpose for personal protection, hunting, or sport, and reload automatically, allowing the bearer of the weapon to shoot rapidly and continuously. The perpetrator of the 2017 Las Vegas shooting at the Route 91 Music Festival killed 60 people, possessing over 20 guns, most of which were semi-automatic. The 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, which resulted in 28 deaths, was also carried out by a gunman using a semi-automatic rifle. In 2016, at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, semi-automatic rifles and pistols were used to kill 49 people. The semi-automatic rifle is evidently a weapon designed for and capable of mass violence. There is no reason for the people of the United States to possess weapons like this.

The ban of all semi-automatic guns as well as heightened regulation of other gun ownership in the United States – including thorough background checks – is paramount. Current federal background checks imposed upon gun buyers usually take a couple minutes and almost never result in rejection. The FBI states that since 1998, out of the approximately 300 million background checks completed, only 1.5 million have been rejected – less than 1%. If more extensive background checks and restrictions were in place, more rigorous identification of people with criminal and mental health struggles could prevent guns from getting into the wrong hands. Additionally, restrictions need to entail mandatory gun safety education, which would create more knowledgeable and capable gun owners.

Once people own guns, there is the issue of storage. Some gun related deaths have resulted from young children handling guns. A child has the strength to pull the trigger of a gun at 3 years old. Instances of accidental shootings by children are made possible by careless gun possession. Teenagers and young adults who are more susceptible to suicide and violence also are given access to guns by irresponsible gun-holding parents. Here at home, New Mexico is taking action. The Bennie Hargrove Bill passed in the State Senate, enforcing responsibility upon adults who allow minors access to guns. This bill ensures that parents who store guns in children’s reach can be charged with a misdemeanor and parents of children who cause harm with the guns can be charged with a fourth degree felony. This bill was passed after 13 year old Bennie Hargrove was shot and killed by another student at Washington Middle School in Albuquerque in summer 2021. Stricter regulation of gun purchases and ownership such as this could save countless lives.

There are other policies and regulations that could be made to reduce gun violence. 34 states in the United States either permit concealed weapons on college campuses or allow each institution to make their own rules. While most shootings don’t occur on campuses, this year’s shooting at Michigan University, which resulted in the death of three students, clearly shows that there is no place for guns at schools and in students’ lives. Colleges and states should strongly regulate gun carrying on school campuses to prevent students in education from being put at unnecessary risk.

While legislative changes would save lives and improve well-being, many people in the United States hold a deeply-rooted and constitutionally-based belief in their right to gun use and ownership, citing the Second Amendment, which reads, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Though people advocate for the Second Amendment and the security of bearing arms, it is evident that gun use has become a danger in the U.S. and often does not uphold our expectations of “security.” Despite the hurdles to passing legislation, we cannot give up on making life-saving changes in this country.

There are firsthand examples of how successful a largely gun-free society could be. Countries like Japan, the United Kingdom, and Australia have significantly lower crime and homicide rates because of strict gun regulations banning the ownership of handguns and automatic rifles. In the U.K., 0.24 people for every 100,000 die from gun-related deaths, whereas in the United States, that figure rests at 10.89 per 100,000, about 50 times higher. Australia, Japan, and the U.K. certainly aren’t crime-free; however, much of the death and strife caused by guns in the U.S. is prevented elsewhere. If greater gun control measures were implemented in the United States, crime and homicide rates would likely drastically decrease.

We have the ability to choose our government, thus we have a say in our gun policy. We, the people of the United States, can strive to become the safest and most secure nation for the sake of ourselves, our families, our friends, and our communities. As we face the future of our safety and of the generations to come, we must directly address the problem. It’s time to actually regulate guns.