Opinions, Politics

Dear Congress, it is time to do something about gun control

After the Boulder City shooting, a heavy cloud looms over the country as gun control takes center stage yet again in the primetime of discussions and talk shows’ topics over whether or not the country should consider banning guns, primarily assault rifles and high-capacity magazines.

Mass shootings have plagued the United States as far back as the 1980s, with one of the earliest being the McDonald’s Massacre in San Ysidro, California, which left 21 dead and 19 wounded. Since 1980, there have been 114 mass shootings, shootings where at least three people are killed, in the United States, including the Aurora shooting in 2012, the Orlando gay nightclub in 2016 and the Las Vegas massacre in 2017.

What often intrigues me is how people respond during these events. While most of the country is looking for a solution to the crisis, it is never really established or finalized because it turns from a conversation into finger-pointing, screaming and a cursing death-match.

Despite a public opinion poll that showed 90% of Americans were in favor of gun control laws, people have often mistaken gun rights owners as dangerous, even though only 19% belong to the National Rifle Association, according to research done by the Pew Research Center in 2017.

Background checks are required by law under the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993; the bill stopped a little over two million gun purchases between 1994 and 2004 — an average of 343 purchases a day during that period. The bill had blocked one million felons, 291,000 domestic abusers and 118,000 fugitives during the 10-year period from purchasing any form of firearms.

However, the bill has been the last major gun control law in the United States on a federal level, despite having influence in state laws such as in California, where it is considered one of the toughest states when it comes to gun control laws.

Background checks have always been required on both a state and federal level for buying and selling guns, but a major loophole that has not been solved is the online sale of guns. What’s the difference? You can purchase a gun online without needing to undergo a background check.

It is also the same issue with gun shows. That means felons, domestic abusers and criminals can purchase firearms without having to go through background checks. This is often referred to as the “black market” for the gun markets.

Other loopholes primarily involve reporting convictions to the federal database.

Take the case with Devin Kelly. In 2017, Kelly drove to his church in Sutherland Spring, Texas and opened fire both inside and outside the church, killing 26 people and leaving 20 wounded. After further investigations, it was later discovered that the Air Force failed to report Kelly, who had a strong obsession with mass shootings and had previously threatened violence while also being convicted of assaulting his then-wife and stepson.

The military, much like the Air Force, has a knack for not reporting to the federal databases. A 2017 inspection found that the Army had the worst record, with 41% of unreported convictions, followed by the Navy at 36% and the Air Force at 14%.

In an effort to fix this problem, one of the countries with better solutions to the problem is New Zealand.

New Zealand is often referenced as the country of choice in these discussions for its efforts in gun control regulations, especially for its quick gun laws following the horrific incident that took place in 2019.

The Oceanic country had made the news for banning military-style semi-automatic weapons following the attack at two mosques in Christchurch that left 49 dead and 20 others injured. The most significant and recent changes to the set of reforms were requiring license holders to register and update on a registry whenever its citizens bought or sold a gun.

Though it is too early to tell if the changes will be positive longterm for New Zealand, the country has not seen any mass shootings since the laws were passed and homicides have decreased.

Connecticut had passed a permit-to-purchase law in 1995, and within the next 10 years since that was first passed, the state had seen a drop of 40% in firearm homicides, which suggests that requiring a permit before a purchase can help reduce gun-related homicides.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., ranking member of the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, said in the following statement, “We know that there’s no single solution to our gun violence epidemic, but there are ideas out there that will help save lives. And if we can save even one life, it’s worth the effort. We can’t let the NRA and gun manufacturers dictate our gun laws. Congress has to step up and act.”

Yes, Feinstein, Congress should be stepping up. But how many more men, women and children will be killed before Congress finally does something? Let us hope that another trigger isn’t pulled.

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