This Needs to Stop

Ryan Pfingst, Editor-in-Chief

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The news alert on my home screen. The headline. The initial shock. The loss for words. The anger. The frustration. The questioning of why this happened. The hopelessness. Finally, the search for a solution. That was my process of reacting to the horror that occurred in Las Vegas earlier this month, a process most likely similar to many others. The news alert on my home screen. The headline. The initial shock. The loss for words. The anger. The frustration. The questioning of why this happened. The hopelessness. Finally, the search for a solution. That was my process of reacting to the horror that occurred in Las Vegas earlier this month, a process most likely similar to many others. The unbelievable and tragic events that took place could’ve happened to any one of us, which is why common sense gun laws are so necessary. The massacre in Vegas was the worst mass shooting on American soil in modern U.S. History, resulting in the death of 59 innocent people and in over 500 more being injured. This title of worst mass shooting has been used three times in the past decade: Virginia Tech in 2007, Orlando in 2016, and now Las Vegas. There is no doubt that these shootings are only getting worse, more frequent, and more deadly. With every deadly shooting of this caliber, people become outraged, become upset, become heartbroken. Yet, nothing changes. Why? Why are we the only wealthy industrialized nation where this regularly happens? Because we cannot seem to get our act together, no matter what happens.  While we are struggling to pass the simplest, most basic gun regulations, numerous other countries have already done so and it’s worked. Take a look at Canada, for instance. In December of 1989, there was a mass shooting at a Montreal engineering school, and in response to that, stricter gun laws were produced. Currently, in order to acquire a legal firearm in Canada, one must obtain a license, which is a process that includes thorough background checks and the completion of a public safety course. In Australia, a gunman shot and killed 35 people in Port Arthur in 1996. Less than two weeks after that incident, the government passed strict assault rifle restrictions and a few years later, passed even stricter handgun restrictions. Since then they have not had a single mass shooting.  I could continue elaborating on all the other countries where they have stricter gun laws and how consequently, they do not have the frequent mass shootings we do, and how they should serve as a model for us, but why bother? Nothing will change. And why is nothing going to change? Because Republicans and NRA supporters in Congress won’t let it. Even though the majority of Americans (55%) believe we need stricter gun laws, according to a recent Gallup Poll, the politicians who have been elected will not let it happen. This is partially due to their political beliefs, but it is also due to their desire for money. It was revealed in a recent New York Times Article the staggering amounts of money that these representatives receive from the N.R.A (National Rifle Association). Number 1 is John McCain, who receives  $7.75 million every year from the organization. The Congress members who receive the next highest sums from the N.R.A are Richard Burr from North Carolina, who receives about $7 million a year, and Roy Blunt from Missouri, who receives $4.5 million a year. These huge sums of money are disgusting, and they do not deserve these payouts just to stop common sense gun laws from passing. Here’s what I want: I want every congressman or president: Republican or Democrat who has ever stopped a common sense gun law from happening to have to face the consequences of their actions. I want them to have to meet with the families of every victim of the shootings in Las Vegas, Orlando, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, and the other deadliest shootings, and I want them to try to explain to these heartbroken families that they possibly could’ve prevented this from happening. I want them to explain that the reason they refuse to take action, and possibly prevent another family from losing a loved one, is because they get too much money from the N.R.A and other pro-gun lobbyists. Let them reveal that they are putting their own wealth over people’s lives. I want them to feel so guilty, so ashamed of themselves, that maybe, just maybe, they’ll consider changing their position.  I am not advocating for a complete and utter recall of all firearms, for that would be ridiculous and unconstitutional. Simply, most of us want sensible, common sense because they get too much money from the N.R.A and other pro-gun lobbyists. Let them reveal that they are putting their own wealth over people’s lives. I want them to feel so guilty, so ashamed of themselves, that maybe, just maybe, they’ll consider changing their position.  I am not advocating for a complete and utter recall of all firearms, for that would be ridiculous and unconstitutional. Simply, most of us want sensible, common sense gun restrictions. For example, we need a national database that keeps track of how many firearms people possess, and how many they are buying in a certain period of time. We need to ban bump stocks, which are a legal accessory which turn regular rifles into assault rifles. We need to ban assault rifles and semi-automatic weapons all together, for they are only designed to kill large amounts of people in a very short period of time. We should also implement a national permit-to-purchase policy, where people would need to obtain a permit and pass a thorough background check in order purchase a firearm. People should also have to complete a public safety and training course in order to receive this permit. People with mental illnesses, prior criminal activity, or who are on the terror watch list, should not be allowed to purchase a weapon. I’m shocked I even have to write that last sentence because it should be common sense. In fact, all of these should be common sense, but they are being blocked by the gun lobbyists, especially the N.R.A. sense. In fact, all of these should be common sense, but they are being blocked by the gun lobbyists, especially the N.R.A.  As high school students, we may feel that our opinions are useless, for we wield no power in the political process. However, the opposite is true. It is up to us to make sure these common sense gun regulations get passed, and that these all-too frequent mass shootings to not continue to be a normality in our society.  Some of us will be able to vote in a few months, while others will be able to vote in a few years, and when that time comes, we can use our vote to elect officials who will work to pass these gun control measures.  Until then, we can still make our voices heard. We can sign petitions, attend protests, contact our representatives at the local, state, and federal level, and do whatever else we can to get our voices heard. It is up to us to make the change happen, and to make sure we never have to see the headline “Worst Mass Shooting in Modern U.S. History” again.

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This Needs to Stop