Thomas Jefferson

High School | Home of the Spartans

Lenient and Lethal

Posted 03/06/2023 by Merry Shukert

As mass sales occur across the nation, Americans fall into the trap of thinking firearms are for safety, rather than harm. photo by Robert Preidt

The United States’ easygoing gun control laws are causing innocent people to fear for their lives. 

A mere two months into 2023, gun violence rates in the United States tower over those of every other country, and gun control in this country seems to be almost nonexistent. The debate over gun control has had its ups and downs over the years, stirred by frequent mass shootings in civilian settings, including schools. Though it is the leading cause of death for children and young adults in the United States, there are almost no limits on who can get access to a firearm in today’s society. Although this may sound like a pretty sufficient call to action, the U.S. government has repeatedly failed to pass meaningful gun laws in the wake of these tragedies, despite many members of the public urging for new restrictions.

In fact, it seems as though gun laws are so lenient that almost anybody, regardless of age, can get their hands on a weapon. Just recently, a six-year-old shot his teacher in his Virginia elementary school. While the legal age for buying a gun is 18, our current laws do nothing to prevent gun ownership by careless parents who would allow their children to gain such easy access to a firearm. In the United States, there are minimal steps required to buy a gun: to pass a quick background check (which only considers criminal convictions, domestic violence, and immigration status), and to then buy a gun. Meanwhile, in almost every other country across the world, the process is much more tedious, including classes that teach safe handling of a firearm, obtaining a doctor’s note stating one’s mental health is in good shape, and allowing the police to check the firearm and one’s possession of it occasionally.  

The United States’ lack of regulations have resulted in the repeated loss of lives across the nation. In 2021, guns killed more than forty-five thousand Americans, the highest toll in decades; and the upward trend is on track to continue. Not even two months into the new year, there have been over 80 mass shootings, and over 6,000 human deaths related to gun violence. Tragically, more than 200 of these were teenagers, and approximately 30 were children between the ages 0 – 11. While compared to the total number of deaths, a number like 30 may not seem like a lot. However, this number is made up of innocent lives – children who should be laughing while running through sprinklers or building a pillow fort with their friends. Instead, these precious lives were taken much too early due to the almost nonexistent gun control laws in the U.S.

Although the U.S. experiences mass shootings almost daily, there has not been the slightest reduction in the number of these shootings and there has been no government action taken to try to improve these statistics in the future. Meanwhile, mass shootings in Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom prompted those governments to tighten gun laws. A survey from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation concluded that in 2017, there were 120.5 civilian owned guns per 100 people in the United States. That number is almost quadruple that of the nation with the next highest number, Canada. As you may have guessed, the US is at the top of this ranking: number one globally, once again. This survey also stated that the United States, with less than five percent of the world’s population, accounts for 46 percent of the world’s civilian-owned guns.

If this country wants to decrease its astonishingly high gun violence rates, the government has to act soon, before more innocent people die. Those in power need to start taking the initiative to make and enforce more laws that prevent just anybody from getting their hands on a gun. Maybe we should take a hint or two from other nations when it comes to gun control. If we did, we could eventually reduce gun violence rates across the nation, and finally put an end to a child’s constant fear that a school shooter will walk into a place where they are supposed to feel safe and protected. As a student who attends a public high school in the U.S., I am constantly reminded that our community is not as safe as it should be. From monthly lockdown drills to actual shootings just down the street, it’s hard to feel safe and protected at school anymore. However, if a simple law was passed strengthening America’s gun control, it would put especially students at ease and help them feel safer every day. 

Click here to read a related article about a local gun violence incident.