Julie Pike, Editor-in-chief
In the wake of the school shooting at the high school in Parkland, FL, where 17 people were killed, it makes me reflect on the current situation regarding gun control in our country. It saddens me to say that I’m not surprised when I hear news of another school shooting. This news still makes me upset and I grieve for those involved, but we live in a nation where school shootings are unfortunately commonplace.
The news and reactions that follow these incidents are almost always the same, people play the blame game. Parents and the student survivors call for more control on guns, government officials blame it on the mental state of the perpetrator, but in all it continues to happen because nothing changes.
Following this specific incident, news travelled around that there have already been 18 school shootings in the U.S. in 2018. However, USA Today found this statistic to be false. Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control advocacy group, was responsible for initially spreading this. However, if you look closer into what this group labels as a school shooting, they include any incident where a gun was discharged on school grounds. This includes incidences where students weren’t necessarily present at the time of a shooting.
Some examples that Everytown for Gun Safety included in their statistic are: in Denison, TX a student took a firearm from a police officer, mistaking it for a practice weapon, and shot the wall and no one was harmed. In Maplewood, MN, a third grader pulled the trigger on a police officer’s gun while he was sitting on a bench, no one was harmed. USA Today found that eight of the 18 cases reported included ones where no one was harmed. Two of the 18 cases were suicides.
While it’s safe to say that school shootings are still extremely common in the U.S., the actuality of those numbers are inflated. However, this doesn’t affect the need for a change in the nation to prevent these. Now for the big question, how can school shootings be prevented?
While I was at Gorham High School, they implemented the use of student ID cards to get into the school. Every outside door to the school was locked, and students could only get into the front entrance doors with their ID cards. This prevented anyone getting into the school that was not a student or staff member. Those who were visiting could speak with the secretary at the front door over the speaker phone to be allowed in.
While this change created somewhat of an inconvenience for students, it was a small price to pay for their ultimate safety from those who did not belong at the school. I believe USM could benefit from this change, since essentially anyone can walk into the main buildings on campus.
The answer to the question of prevention is not simple. It would take the effort of an entire country to combat this problem. I believe the main efforts need to go into gun control.
It was a topic of discussion in my senior capstone class recently, about what the regulations surrounding gun control should be. Both sides of the argument were identified. On one hand, people want easy access to firearms for their own safety or for leisure reasons, such as hunting. On the other hand, people argue that it’s too easy for people to get a hold of a gun, allowing firearms to be possessed by the wrong people.
Here’s what currently stands for federal regulations about gun control. At 18 years of age a person can purchase shotguns, rifles and ammunition. At 21 years of age a person can purchase other firearms, such as handguns. Those who are unable to purchase firearms include fugitives, those deemed a danger to society, those with prior felony convictions, those found guilty of unlawfully possessing substances within the past year, those with restraining orders, dishonorably discharged military personnel, unauthorized migrants and tourists, among others.
The background check that is required to purchase a firearm takes approximately 10 minutes. This checks prior convictions or red flags. Only a dozen states in the U.S. require permits to purchase handguns, and only three of those requires permits to purchase a rifle or shotgun. California requires applicants to pass a written test and enroll in a gun safety class to obtain a permit.
Already I can pick out areas in which this country can improve on gun control. Ten minutes to do a background check on an individual is not nearly long enough to deem them worthy to purchase a gun. It should not be a quick process to obtain a firearm. I support California’s requirements. The mere process alone may deter people from obtaining a firearm.
Where these regulations become tricky is when guns are purchased through an individual, online, at a flea market or a gun show. These people are not required to have a Federal Firearms License (FFL), according to The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), a division of the Department of Justice. These requirements only count for those who are conducting the sale as a part of their business.
Amazingly this is how a person can obtain a firearm without technically breaking the law. Children under 18 may also possess guns if they were given to them by a parent or guardian. This is the real place where gun control needs to improve. While I’m not against a person owning firearms, and I support the right to have one for safety reasons, they should not be an easy thing to obtain.
Firearms should only be sold through sellers who have an FFL license, even if they are just trying to sell a firearm to a friend. Firearms should not be an easy online purchase, there should be a complicated series of steps, background checks, gun safety classes, and screenings in order to purchase one. Only after these improvements can be made can our country move a step forward towards being a safer place to live.