Following a recent massacre at a South Florida high school owing to America’s infamous gun violence problem, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets not only in the United States but also in France, Germany, and Spain in Europe and in parts of China and Japan in Southeast Asia. The students, who are leading the movement being called March for Our Lives, hope to propel action as midterm elections draw near and encourage their peers to register to vote in order to make their voices heard.
What will these nationwide school walkouts accomplish?
What this movement is doing is drawing attention to America’s very unique gun violence problem. America has a higher number of gun related deaths than any other country (64%) compared to Canada’s 30.5% and England’s 4.5%. Guns in America are not only used for mass shootings but are also a devastatingly effective way of taking one’s own life—suicide comprises two thirds of all gun deaths.
Owing to this movement, we saw prominent figures in society come out and speak against gun violence in support of the movement.
What can be done about it?
One solution to combat gun violence in America is staring us right in the face—stricter background checks. Shockingly enough, most Americans can buy a gun in less than an hour while citizens of most other developed countries have to go through months of scrutiny to be able to possess a gun.
The Second Amendment serves as a legal basis for Americans “to keep and bear arms”. Gun laws vary across states in America but in most states one can buy a gun in minutes. While the legal drinking age in America in 21, an 18-year-old can by passing some quick background checks possess shotguns, rifles, and ammunition. While everyone is required to undergo a background check before being eligible to possess a firearm, the check is usually quick and often only checks for prior felonies, convictions, and such red flags. Once an American has passed this background check, he is free to buy a gun. Furthermore, background checks are only required by the law when one is purchasing a firearm from a license dealer; the law does not monitor private sales and sales that take place during gun shows.
Most countries, on the other hand, have multiple steps a citizen is required to go through in order to be eligible to possess a firearm such as getting fingerprinted, joining and regularly attending a shooting club, obtaining a permit for a particular kind of firearm and then being eligible to own only that firearm, and filling out mental health surveys amid other things. If only America could incorporate some of these steps, it would see a significant reduction in gun violence. Certain states including California, Connecticut, and Washington are incorporating stricter gun laws. However, in certain states, gun laws are becoming less stringent—for instance, students in public colleges in Texas are legally allowed to carry concealed handguns.
After the Las Vegas shooting in October last year, Billy O’Reilly said of the shooting: “This is the price of freedom.” However, freedom always comes with certain responsibilities and the students of America and people around the world are realizing that now. The first step to solving a problem is acknowledging it and that is what these demonstrations accomplished.