By: Hannah Paige Michels ~Photography Editor~
America has a gun problem. An average of 91 Americans have died every day from firearms, creating a total of 11,626 gun-related fatalities in less than 10 months of 2016, according to EveryTownResearch. org. The way we glorify violence and invest our patriotism in firearms is toxic and is responsible for the loss of innocent lives. American gun culture is killing our people.
People like to point to Switzerland, a neutral country with one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the world, where gun violence doesn’t exist the way it does in the states.
However, America’s gun culture is nothing like that of Switzerland. The Swiss have a deep-rooted tradition of owning guns to protect the small country and shooting guns for sport. Americans, however, root their desires to own firearms in aggression and a false sense of patriotic freedom. According to NPR, while the Swiss own 2.5 million guns, Americans are still 10 times more likely to be killed by a gun than in any other developed nations.
Orlando, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, Aurora: These are some of the most recent and deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history. Every time this country is traumatized by another mass shooting, our gaze is shifted from the obvious issue of a lack of gun control to a new suspect, mental illness. This is incredibly dangerous, as this outlook begins to demonize people who are mentally ill.
After a massacre, we don’t question America’s loose gun laws and lenient regulation. Instead, we classify the shooter as a victim of their own mental illness, making it the culprit.
Following the Sandy Hook massacre, conservative commentator Anne Coulter claimed, “Guns don’t kill people—the mentally ill do.” Similarly, National Rifle Association President Wayne LaPierre blamed “delusional killers” for violence in America and even called for a national registry of people with mental illness.
These comments are offensive and wildly inaccurate. While evidence shows that mass shooters are often socially marginalized and mentally ill, violence cannot be entirely attributed to mental illness. This only further stigmatizes those who are already living with mental illness and shows a larger cultural issue regarding how we talk about the subject.
The way to stop this is through stricter gun control, which has been proven to work in countries like Australia. After a mass shooting killed 35 people in 1996, Australia reformed its gun laws, which resulted in staggering drops in gun-related violence. The country hasn’t seen a fatal mass shooting in 20 years.
The United Kingdom also experienced a mass shooting in 1996 at Dublane Primary School when 16 children and their teacher were killed by a gunman armed with a handgun. Before this, semi-automatic firearms and pump action weapons were banned after a shooting in 1987. After Dublane, the passing of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997, and even further restrictions from there, the UK banned all firearms except for those used in shooting as sport. Now, the UK has one of the lowest gun homicide rates in the world.
The difference between countries like the UK or Australia and the U.S. is that they choose to listen to the effects of mass shootings and to protect their citizens, while America stands silent, clutching our semi-automatic rifles as citizens continue to be shot. We will probably never see a gun overhaul in America to the same degree as in Australia or the UK, but it is undeniable that the U.S. needs to regulate its guns.
Try to explain why 49 died in Orlando, 32 were murdered at Virginia Tech and 26 were killed at Sandy Hook. Why semiautomatic rifles and shotguns are not the reason there have been 874 victims from mass shootings in America. Explain the incessant violence in this country, and try to leave guns out of the equation.