No one needs an automatic rifle

We need change and we need it now. On Oct. 1 in Las Vegas, a man opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino into the crowd at the Route 91 Harvest Festival. At least 59 people were killed and 527 people  were wounded. In the face of such tragedy many are asking themselves, where do we go from here?

Some are sick of people bringing up gun control so soon after catastrophe, but as mass shootings happen so frequently in America, is there ever a right time to talk about the topic?  “When is the time? If you say after a mass shooting is not the right time, then the right time will never come up because there is a mass shooting almost every single day. So, when is the time?” said Samin Agha, a second-year law student studying at the University of Houston.

Veronica Hartfield, wife of Las Vegas police officer Charleston Hartfield, and son Ayzayah Hartfield stand during a candlelight memorial for the officer. Hartfield was killed during the shooting. (John Locher/AP)

Talking about mass shootings and gun legislation is a necessity. If the issue is ignored, people are going to be in danger. Freshman Linh Nguyen said, “It’s a big problem, so if you don’t talk about it how can you be more aware of what is coming or might be coming?”

The push for gun control is not one that arises from callousness; it comes from anger. On April 28, 1996, 35 people died in a mass shooting in Australia. Less than two weeks later, their government passed strict gun control laws. In the decade after, firearm homicides fell by 59 percent without a corresponding increase in non-firearm homicides.

In contrast, in the United States we’ve been left to accept these casualties in the name of “freedom.” A study by Gavin Aronsen, a reporter from mother jones, analyzed data on mass shootings since 1982. His findings showed that 82 percent of guns used in mass shootings are purchased legally. And of the over 5,000 children who are injured by guns on average per year in the U.S., a third are hurt unintentionally because of unsafe gun practices.

Studies show that children are accidently shot by their peers. “Most children who died of unintentional firearm injuries were shot by another child in their own age range and most often in the context of playing with a gun or showing it to others,” said Aronsen. The tragic deaths caused by guns are not the fault of the instruments, but the lack of safety measures enforced by adults and owners. If one is to own a gun they must do so responsibly, under lock and key. This protects not only themselves, but everyone else too.

Americans have the right to bear arms. However, the meaning of those words must evolve in this day and age.  The Second Amendment was written when guns held one bullet and were mainly used for hunting. No one needs an automatic rifle to hunt deer. To uphold the argument that automatic rifles are necessary for hunting reasons is ignorant and false.

In the context of American history, the second amendment was used to wipe out native populations. Guns were instrumental in the genocide of the Native American people.

The Second Amendment was originally ratified to obtain Virginia’s vote in ratifying the Constitution.  In southern states, it was customary to have a state militia that would enforce the practice of slavery by smashing uprisings, enacting inspections on quarters and conducting regular patrols.

Las Vegas resident Nancy Cooley signs a Vegas Strong banner honoring the victims of a mass shooting in Las Vegas. (Gregory Bull/AP)

The planned constitution gave the federal government the power to raise a national militia, which would have the power to absorb state militias into federal forces. This raised fear in the southern states that the federal army could be used to emancipate slaves. To obtain southern votes, the Constitution was amended to give militias the right to bear arms and uphold patrols.

It’s irresponsible to white-wash history in the name of freedom and patriotism. The Second Amendment is founded on racism and violence. Americans must cease praising The Second Amendment under the rights of “freedom,” when in reality it is founded in racism and oppression.

Gun laws must evolve.  A vast majority of Americans support universal background checks. “We need to be a lot more serious (about gun legislation). You’re able to have a license for a gun online. Even young kids are able (to get guns) from forging their parent’s signature online. We should take our part of not only stopping gun violence and taking more precautions. If people want to get their license (for guns) at least take mental tests,” said freshman Ganise Concepcion.

So why isn’t the law in place? The short answer is people make money by selling guns and those people have the motive and money to lobby against new gun laws.

According to The Center for Responsive Politics, “during the 2014 election cycle, gun rights advocates gave parties, candidates and outside spending groups nine times more than their opponents, $3.7 million versus $423,750, and spent nearly seven more times on lobbying, $27.3 million versus $4.2 million.” Those funds also overwhelmingly went to Republicans, which could be part of why the Republican-majority congress refuses to pass new gun regulations.

Going forward, we must ask ourselves how we prevent mass shootings from happening again. Some people are calling for tighter security at hotels. Unfortunately, a hotel was just the latest site of a broader issue. Unless we’re willing to have heightened security at all soft targets there is no chance of this being successful in stopping mass shootings. And it’s not feasible to provide that level of security at so many locations. The best option right now is new gun regulations.

This is often blatantly conflated with confiscating all guns. That is no one’s intention, just common sense gun laws. There must be a ban on rapid-fire weapons that are uniquely suited for mass shootings with the addition of mandatory gun safety training. Just as you have to get a permit and take a class before you get a license to drive a car, the same measures should be in place for gun regulations with universal background checks. Any of these actions would be an improvement. With lives on line, we can’t afford to do nothing.