Dear America, How Many More?


Emily Clark, Reporter

As an American public high school student, I am scared. I am scared of how easy it is to purchase weapons. I am scared of how many children have died at school, a supposedly safeplace. I am especially terrified for when one of the schools in my city will be the next school shooting incident. Just this past week on Tuesday, there were two separate cases of a student bringing a weapon to South Bend’s Riley High School and Jackson Middle School. 

Within the first three months of 2023, there were 13 school shootings in the United States, roughly one school shooting per week. The most recent shooting was on March 27 at a Christian elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee. This shooting took the lives of three nine-year-olds and three adults, which was the highest number of victims out of the school shootings so far this year. The shooter had legally purchased the three guns brought to the school, consisting of two assault-style rifles and a handgun.

From 1994-2004, America did have a ban signed by former President Bill Clinton to ban semi-automatic assault weapons. The ban’s effectiveness is hard to determine because the effectiveness is subjectively based on interpretation of an individual’s definition of assault weapons, the availability of pre-ban assault weapons, and the time periods in which they are being compared. But, unfortunately, we are in a time where America needs that ban more than ever to protect children.

In 2020, firearms became the number one leading cause of death for children. This fact in itself is devastating. What is even worse is that the United States handles these unfortunate situations with argument and inaction. It is difficult to remove a problem so deeply rooted in American society. America’s Constitution, the supreme law of the United States, guarantees American citizens the right to bear arms in the Second Amendment. Additionally, America is the only country with more guns than people—120.5 guns for every 100 people.

The U.S. Compared to Other Countries

For a country with more guns than people, the argument that having more guns would mean more safety is disproved by America’s excessive rates of gun violence. Between 2009-2018, the U.S. experienced 288 school shootings. The other six Group of Seven countries (Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Italy, U.K.) had five school shootings combined in that same time frame. The U.K. has not had a school shooting in the past 27 years. Their last school shooting was at Dunblane Primary School in 1996, killing sixteen students and one teacher. One year after this shooting, Parliament changed its gun laws dramatically, banning private ownership of most handguns and semi-automatic weapons and requiring mandatory registration for shotgun owners. The U.K. does not have the same gun culture or Constitutional rights as America, but the key takeaway is that it only took ONE shooting for gun laws to reform effectively. In 2019, the country had about .04 gun-related deaths per 100,000 people, while the U.S. had an astonishing 3.96.

Tennessee’s Response to Nashville Shooting

Meanwhile, Representative. Tim Burchett of Tennessee said in a video interview that the recent Nashville shooting is “a horrible, horrible situation.” Still, also that Congress is “not going to fix it,” and “criminals will be criminals.” Though Tennessee lawmakers do not seem to see the point in protecting kids through gun laws, they seem to strongly believe that protecting children from drag queens is essential. The Governor of Tennessee signed a law in early March restricting where drag queens can and cannot perform, the main concern being to not be in the presence of children. Burchett believed this was a great way to protect children: “Good on Governor Bill Lee and our Tennessee legislature … we don’t put up with that crap in Tennessee, and we shouldn’t,” he said. 

The irony in this statement is bizarre. The six lives lost in the Nashville elementary school did not happen because of a drag queen, but because of a gun. 

The Second Amendment Argument

In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled in District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment grants an individual the right to possess firearms for lawful purposes, including self-defense. A looming fear for pro-gun supporters is that the government will deprive people’s right to the Second Amendment if America increases gun control in this country. In response to the false argument that more guns mean more safety, statistics show that the number of times a gun is used out of self-defense is rare. For example, for one justifiable homicide using a gun out of self-defense in 2019, there were 30 criminal homicides. 

If America were to increase gun control and ban assault weapons again, then the most common weapon used in mass shootings would be restricted. Everytown states that when assault weapons are used in mass shootings, 5x as many people are shot. An AR-15-style weapon was used in the Nashville shooting (6 dead), the Parkland shooting (17 dead), and the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting (27 dead). 

So if the case of using a gun out of self-defense is rare and an assault weapon is a common culprit of mass shootings, then it would stand to reason that there is little to no harm in banning assault weapons.

Banning assault weapons is also not banning all guns. If a shooter only had access to a less-extreme weapon like a pistol, then there would be fewer people injured, and the ones who did get injured would have a much higher chance of living. In an NPR article, medical experts explain that handguns shoot bullets that go straight through a target, while AR-15s used in mass shootings can cause organs to turn into liquid due to their higher projectile speeds. Researchers estimate that if we continued to have a federal assault weapon ban today, we would see 70% fewer mass shooting deaths. Though this is just an educated estimate, the phrase “better safe than sorry,” describes the situation best. 

America cannot solve the epidemic of gun violence with a single solution, but we can work to incorporate things that will help to decrease the severity of the problem. Whether a person is pro-gun control or against it, we as a society know that we do not deserve to endure another school shooting. Action must be taken to prevent that. The bottom line is that students should not have to put their lives at risk to receive an education.

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