What will finally trigger a change to gun control?

Kellsie Edgcomb, Assistant Opinion Editor

Mass shootings happen so frequently in this country that conversations around them now have a need to be qualified with who, what, when, where and why. Long gone are the memories of Columbine High School (death toll 12); today is a time of Sandy Hook (27), Pulse Nightclub (49), San Bernardino (14) and Las Vegas (58).

Recently, Professor Amanda Cook-Fesperman hosted yet another brown bag lunch discussion on Oct. 11. This time it centered around the issue of gun violence following a mass shooting killing 59 people on Oct. 1 in Las Vegas, Nev.

Set aside the discussion of this specific mass shooting, because we are to the point where we must differentiate which one we are talking about, and let’s examine the bigger issue here.

I am a politically liberal person, but when it comes to guns and the Second Amendment I fall in a moderate category. I’m from the Illinois Valley after all. Most people also fall somewhere in the middle on this issue, a point Cook-Fesperman tried to make, but was derailed by a select few.

The main point here is to just talk about it. If we talk about it, we can move forward. Many “gun-nuts” and many “anti-gun” individuals can agree; background checks and more training for those who own and use guns, along with armed security and police forces are a part of healthy, functioning society.

This is an extremely polarizing topic—I understand that. This discussion was no exception. The body language of the conservative pro-gun type (yes, I am stereotyping a bit here, but they choose to sit in the area labeled “Anyone should be able to have any gun at any time”) was very closed off even before the discussion began.

At one point in time, a man in this section stated it was his right to carry a gun to protect himself, and he had done so before the state of Illinois passed concealed carry laws. This man openly admitted to breaking the law because he felt it was his right to do so. Again, a reasonable person would conclude that it is not someone’s right to break the law, especially when a deadly weapon is involved.

Unfortunately, it seems some topics just cannot be civilly discussed when people come to the table with preconceived notions of “freedom” and “rights.” Arguments broke out: some were shut down, others not so much. This is an institution of higher learning, and Cook-Fesperman stepped in and made it clear that all constitutional amendment-given rights have exceptions. First Amendment freedom of speech, does not include the right to yell “bomb!” or “fire!” in a crowded place. The Second Amendment certainly has limits as well.

Separately, a discussion around Australia’s response to an event like the Vegas shooting was discussed. I pointed out that the entire country of Australia lobbied their government to have stricter gun laws, banning assault-type weapons in order to hopefully prevent another tragedy involving a mass shooting.

The outcome is not surprising: zero mass shootings since this law has changed in Australia. It is clear that this country came together in a time of tragedy and took steps to help change gun culture and it worked!

In our country, the response to senseless gun violence is lackluster. The statement released by the White House following Vegas did not include anything about gun control, policy changes, nor any solutions to this problem.

This discussion quickly diverted to a pushback on overall violent crimes in Australia versus the United States. Here’s the thing: if violent crime is the overarching, bigger issue, should our governments make policy to help this? Wouldn’t gun control laws help this issue? Any policy that helps lower the number of violent crimes is helping.

Take, for example, the number of sexual assault events on campus. This is a violent crime. Now, this is hard to study and qualify because data can be collected, but it’s hard to correct for the rate of reporting versus the rate of these violent acts actually happening.

I am not sure I would find anyone who would say we should just let it be what it is. We are educating the world about this issue as a way to combat the bigger problem. #MeToo went viral. By giving victims a voice to report and teaching consent and teaching educators and campus officials how to properly respond to such events and reports, we are helping to solve this issue in the long term.

Shouldn’t we follow this exact pattern when it comes to gun violence? Shouldn’t we take action when tragic events occur? As a society, as a Western culture, we need to do more. Why isn’t there a hashtag going around from people speaking out about gun violence?

Another point brought up during the discussion was the fact that automatic weapons are not as accurate as single round weapons. Here, they are not wrong. Round-for-round, a single-shot rifle is going to have a higher likelihood of hitting the intended target than an automatic or semi-automatic rifle, but they are missing the target on this one too.

In this case we are not talking about accuracy. In mass shooting events, we are talking about effectiveness of the weapons used. We are not talking about backyard target practice, we are talking about human beings. We are talking about ending people’s lives and lowering their quality of life. A spray of hundreds of bullets are going to hit, injure, and kill human-beings. That’s really the long and short of it.

If single-load weapons were just as effective as semi-automatic weapons our military and police forces would only carry weapons that hold one round. As a veteran, once trained in law enforcement and federal drug interdiction and qualified to carry a semi-automatic side-arm, I can assure you I loaded my weapon to full capacity of 11 rounds in the magazine and one round chambered, with the intent to use deadly force if necessary.

People are killing people. That is a problem. They are using legally purchased, modified semi-automatic weapons to complete their goal. Why isn’t there a louder public outcry? It’s extremely clear to a reasonable person that this country has an issue with gun violence. I can attend events, write articles, and share my opinions all I want. But I am just one voice. Now, it’s your turn. How are you going to help solve this issue?

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