When a man in a black trench coat and glasses entered through the front door at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California, most of the people there were too busy to even take notice. Wednesday, November 7 seemed like any other evening at the popular bar, with people swaying to the music, watching the football game, and playing pool. A popular spot for students attending California Lutheran University, the bar is often bustling with young people. However, events quickly escalated when a man pulled out a Glock .45-caliber handgun and shot the security guard, then the person at the cash register. He continued deeper into the bar, and people screamed as they realized that the sounds they were hearing were not fireworks or music, but fatal gunshots. The gunman, identified as former marine Ian David Long, continued to fire, repeatedly shooting at those who were already on the ground. People dropped to the floor, hid, and threw bar stools at windows in desperate attempts to escape. Those fortunate enough to get out ran for their lives, bringing their friends with them. By the time the gunfire stopped, twelve people were dead, and the gunman had shot himself.
If mass shootings are defined as a single incident in which four or more people are killed (not including the shooter), then this incident was just one of 316 mass shootings in the United States this year. According to the Gun Violence Archive, 12,996 people have died, and another 25,080 have been injured by gun violence in 2018. The US is among the world’s most developed countries, but comparable nations such as the United Kingdom and Australia do not face nearly as many shootings. Where the US has had over 300 mass shootings in 2018, the UK has only had one since 2010, and Australia has only had two since 1996.
What makes the US so much more susceptible to mass shootings than other developed nations? When comparing the United States, one can’t help but notice the differences in gun laws and policies.
In response to the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, Australia created the National Agreement on Firearms, which, in addition to banning various assault weapons, took roughly 650,000 assault weapons out of circulation, and requires licensees to prove a “genuine need” for the type of gun they are purchasing. After a shooting in Melbourne in 2002, Australia created much stricter laws regarding handguns and went so far as to ban certain types of handguns, including the .45-caliber one that Ian Long used.
Similarly, the UK has been reactive in its gun policies. The UK experienced its worst mass shooting in Dunblane in 1996, when a man with four handguns killed sixteen schoolchildren and one adult, before killing himself. After this tragedy, the United Kingdom created legislation that bans almost all handguns and initiated a temporary gun buyback program that took thousands of guns out of supply.
While the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 requires background checks for all unauthorized people buying firearms from a federally authorized dealer, in 2004 Congress allowed a federal prohibition on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines to expire. The US has no federal laws banning semi-automatic assault weapons, .5-caliber military style rifles, handguns, or large capacity magazines. Unlike Australia and the UK, the US has not banned assault weapons and has little to no restrictions on handguns.
Of the three nations listed above, the United States has the least restrictions on firearms and the most mass shootings. It is important to recognize that the second amendment of the US Constitution does grant people the right to bear arms, but it is equally important to recognize the time and context in which that amendment was written. One must also recognize that guns are a part of many Americans’ culture, and many others use weapons as a means of protection. At what point must these beliefs be compromised for our people’s safety? Is it possible for the United States to model other nation’s actions in the fight to protect its people?
While many Latin students are too young to vote, those who are eligible, like senior Anna Wolf, have been thinking about the gun control question and its lack of appearance in current campaigning: “sadly, when campaigning, successful candidates put winning above their own beliefs. They put on a show to win.” Because gun control is such a hyper-partisan topic, it is often not a tool for campaigning, as it often turns issue voters away. It is yet to be seen whether the gruesome murders of hundreds of innocent Americans will have any effect on the discussion regarding gun control in the next election.
In the meantime, students can volunteer with activist groups, or donate to gun-control organizations. Students can take part in protests, or let their elected officials know how important the subject is to them. It only took the UK and Australia one mass shooting to realize that something needed to change, so why is it taking us hundreds? The bottom line is, America needs a change that will bring an end to this gun violence, and whatever you believe this change should be, it is time to get involved in making it happen. ]]>