Gun violence have been infesting our society; whether you watch it in the local evening news or see it online, we are surrounded with these violent act to humanity. What precautions must we take in order to abolish these treacherous events? The Gun Violence Archive defines mass shootings as, “an event in which four or more individuals are shot at or killed in the same general time and location”(gunviolencearchive.org). The first mass shooting recorded in the United States occurred on September 6, 2019. A 28 year old man named Howard Unruh unloaded his gun upon his neighbors and pedestrians on his street. In the span of 20 minutes, Unruh wounded three and killed 13 people before the police apprehended him. These terrifying events can lead to many path of negative effects in individuals and the community. After a mass shooting, the mental health of victims may be affected. Victims of these traumatic events may form a mental disorder such as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Reliving a life scarring event is difficult to undertake for an individual. Many individuals are affected by this disorder whether it is moderate or severe, day to day activities can trigger flashbacks and/or anxiety, “An estimated 5 percent of Americans—more than 13 million people—have PTSD at any given time”(sidran.org).
Gun laws in the United States are poorly enforced and may be contributing to mass shootings. There are many cases in which a pistol was sold to an individual who did not meet the criteria for owning and wielding a firearm. “In 2007, Virginia Tech student Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 32 people and himself at his college campus”(vox.com). Cho was not authorized to purchase a firearm due to his history of mental illness in which the proper documents were not sent to the database of the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The program is known for being underfunded as well as short staffed which can damage liability. The FBI claims the program “ensures the timely transfer of firearms to eligible gun buyers” (fbi.gov). Fault in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System jeopardized the lives of all students enrolled at Virginia Tech the day of the shooting. In 2004 congress allowed a gun law to expire which banned AR-15 and high capacity magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. “The number of mass shootings per year has doubled since the ban expired” (washingtonpost.com).
Legally obligating private sellers to run background checks on consumers interested in buying can prevent criminals or people with mental illnesses from owning a firearm. Private sellers who are federally licensed firearms dealers are responsible for selling about 60 percent of the guns that are found at crime scenes and mass shootings.“deadly loopholes in federal gun laws still exempts unlicensed sellers from having to perform any background check whatsoever before selling a firearm” (giffords.org). More than 90 percent of Americans support the idea of mandatory background checks, many Americans believe it can deter the rate of gun related deaths per year. Although not every background check has been successful to stopping criminals obtaining firearms, “In 2017 alone 181,000 attempted gun purchases were denied because the individual was prohibited from possessing a firearm” (giffords.org). Any number of the attempted gun purchases could have possibly resulted in a fatal mass shooting. Criminals never cease to slip through the cracks and break the law. It is the responsibility of a private seller to determine if the buyer is eligible to purchase a firearm; however, as individuals people need to be cognizant of their surroundings for their own safety.
Heightening security in crowded locations such as schools, malls, and events can prevent the probability of a mass shootings. If a place is fortified with security measures it is less likely for a potential shooter to attempt to commit mass shooting. For example, In the 1980s and 1990s Western International High School, a school known for gang activity and drug use in Detroit installed metal detectors and security cameras to combat underage gun possession. In 1999 news spread all over the United States about the most fatal school shooting recorded in American history. An an early morning on April 19, 1999 in Littleton, Colorado at Columbine High School, two students named Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris go on a shooting spree. “The Columbine shooting was, at the time, the worst high school shooting in U.S. history and prompted a national debate on gun control and school safety”(history.com). After the Columbine massacre, Public schools around the U.S. began installing surveillance cameras, metal detectors, bag bans, and locking classroom doors to prevent a similar scenario that happened in Columbine High School.
In conclusion, there are many methods and strategies to prevent mass shootings and to reduce the rate of these heinous crimes. We could enact stricter and meticulous background checks to ensure consumers are vetted properly; gun dealers who do not abide by these laws should be held liable to the utmost degree. In my opinion, we must begin with educating our youth with personal security. We should reenforce awareness and always be cognizant of our surrounding. We often times neglect the signs of danger to avoid personal attention - this should not be the case. We need open lines of communication between students and teachers advocating to speak up when we see any suspicious activity. I am not claiming that these recommendations are an exhausted list but we must take immediate action to halt further damage in our society.
- Gun Violence Archive. (n.d.). Mass Shootings in 2022. https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/reports/mass-shooting
- National Center for PTSD. (n.d.). How Common Is PTSD? https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand/common/common_veterans.asp
- Vox. (2018, February 15). The failures that led to the Parkland school shooting. https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/2/15/17014208/parkland-school-shooting-gun-control-background-checks
- Federal Bureau of Investigation. (n.d.). National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). https://www.fbi.gov/services/cjis/nics
- The Washington Post. (2019, August 5). The assault-weapons ban didn’t work. https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2019/08/05/assault-weapons-ban-didnt-work-we-need-smarter-gun-laws-now/
- Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. (n.d.). Universal Background Checks. https://giffords.org/lawcenter/gun-laws/policy-areas/background-checks/universal-background-checks/
- History. (2009). Columbine High School shootings. https://www.history.com/topics/1990s/columbine-high-school-shootings
- National Institute of Justice. (2014, July 10). The Effectiveness of Public Area Surveillance for Crime Prevention. https://nij.ojp.gov/topics/articles/effectiveness-public-area-surveillance-crime-prevention