A Message On Gun Control

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Gun Control

By Rayiah Ross

     To start, let me be clear on one sad fact: the longer I waited to write this article, the more school shootings there were. There were so many that the average school shooting count of 2018 has increased to 1.5 school shootings a week. Previous to the Parkland High School shooting in Florida, there had been seven school shootings. Parkland was the shooting to spark the most controversy, but the issue of school shootings has been present far before. The Post explains that in the past 18 years there have been more than 130 shootings at elementary, middle and high schools, and 58 others at colleges and universities. This definition of ‘mass killing’ is defined by Congress -after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in 2012- as “3 or more killings in a single incident.” Any shootings with less than three, or incidents involving threats or injury technically do not count as ‘mass killings,’ but that doesn’t make them any less of an issue.

     Our leaders have put more effort in stopping football players from kneeling during the national anthem than from stopping children from being slaughtered in schools. There are stricter rules about girls showing up to school with spaghetti straps than about controlling guns in this country. Instead, schools are implementing rules like Robert W. Runcie, the superintendent of Broward County Public Schools, who sent a letter to the families of Stoneman Douglas High students imposing the new backpack rule, reminiscent of security measures at airports and professional sports venues. He said any student without a clear backpack would be provided one at no cost after spring break. Students also will be issued identification badges, which they will be required to wear at all times while in school, Staff members have required badges as well. In addition, Mr. Runcie said the district was considering using metal-detecting wands at school entrances and installing permanent metal detectors. Other schools are considering keeping a bag of rocks in classrooms for attack and even the arming of teachers with guns.

     Now let’s address the big issue: Gun control. When most people hear those words, they tend to shy away from discussion. But saving the conversation for later will not cause change. There were 464,033 total gun deaths between 1999 and 2013: 270,237 suicides (58.2% of total deaths); 174,773 homicides (37.7%); and 9,983 unintentional deaths (2.2%). Guns were the cause of  66.6% of all homicides and 52.2% of all suicides. Firearms were the 12th leading cause of all deaths, representing 1.3% of total deaths topping liver disease, hypertension, and Parkinson’s disease, as well as deaths from fires, drowning, and machinery accidents. According to a Mar. 10, 2016 Lancet Study, implementing federal universal background checks could reduce firearm deaths by a projected 56.9%; background checks for ammunition purchases could reduce deaths by a projected 80.7%; and gun identification requirements could reduce deaths by a projected 82.5%. Accidental gun deaths, suicide, and assault could all be prevented by this change. And I’m not saying ‘take away all guns,’ I’m just pointing out the fact that we need more restrictions and more precise qualifications

     In simple terms, a bill to employ background checks would hold federal and state agencies accountable if they fail to upload criminal history records to the background check system. The bill wouldn’t strengthen background checks, but instead require the National Criminal Instant Background Check system to stay updated. There are still many arguments about loopholes on background checks on the sale of guns online and at gun shows.

     Another option Congress is considering is arming teachers with guns and classrooms with rocks or bats. Several local firearms clubs joined together to offer free instructional training for teachers interested in learning more about carrying guns while on the job. The training is strictly informational and not much different from other programs offered by area clubs, said Sam Piccinini of the Beaver Valley Pistol Club. The Pistol Club, for example, often offers training and recommends that any gun carrier can participate. The program is more elaborate than what is offered on scene when a person buys a firearm. He said it is “very necessary to know how to responsibly carry a firearm.” Piccinini said the current model for school safety isn’t working. “If it was, the numbers wouldn’t be so high” when it comes to violence in school, he said. “We truly need a last line of defense,” Piccinini said. “We need to give [teachers] the tools they need.” Piccinini said he isn’t suggesting every teacher be armed, only the ones who what to take on that responsibility. After the Parkland shooting, a Rasmussen survey showed 59 percent supported President Donald Trump’s proposal to give teachers monetary incentives to carry guns in school. 54 percent of adults without schoolchildren oppose the idea. Overall, slightly more people oppose than support the idea.

     Carrying a gun in a school is no different than in a grocery store, movie theater, or restaurant. Imagine walking down a street and seeing everyone -whether you know them or not- walking with a gun strapped around their arm. Image the fear of hearing one gun going off… and then two. What about three? What happens when everyone is shooting? What happens when the bullet hits you? Your friend? Your family? How many more have to die before this is finally understood. When you fight fire with fire, everything will burn. No one will rise from the ashes.

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