103, 20, 70, 0.
One hundred and three individuals killed or injured in the U.S.'s deadliest mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL this past June. Twenty first graders shot to death in the Sandy Hook shooting in Newton, CT December of 2012. Seventy casualties resulting from a man opening fire at a movie theatre in Aurora, CO during a showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" in July of 2012. Zero pieces of gun control legislation passed since 2007.
It's simple numbers, yet something doesn't add up.
As a college student, this data is unsettling. I still remember when, in 2007, a senior at Virginia Tech opened fire on campus in what turned out to be the second deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history. At the time, I was in elementary school, and I remember being terrified -- scared of college, scared of the real world, scared of being shot. We should not live in a world where children, instead of dreaming about their future, are afraid of growing up. During my college years, I have been fortunate enough to live on a campus void of mass shootings, but I am constantly aware of the possibility, and incidents such as the shooting at USC during the fall of 2014 remind me of the eminent danger.
There is, of course, a simple solution -- gun reform. More specifically, we need to ban the sale of automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines to individuals. Twenty years ago, Australia tightened its gun control laws, restricting the types of guns people could legally own. Since the enactment of this reform, Australia has suffered zero mass shootings. Given the effectiveness of Australia's gun control measures, we must ask ourselves how many innocent lives must be lost before America adopts the necessary reforms?
A partisan gridlock has thwarted gun reform for years. Although lawmakers have introduced over 100 gun control proposals in Congress over the past five years, not a single piece of legislation has been passed into law. In fact, most of these proposals haven't even made it to the House or Senate floor. Most recently, following the shooting in Orlando, a series of gun control measures that would have strengthened background checks and prevented suspected terrorists from obtaining weapons were rejected.
Some blame the iron grip the National Rifle Association holds over Congress coupled with efforts by gun lobbyists while others blame politicians' desire to be re-elected, but regardless, legal reform does not appear to be coming any time soon. In the wake of each mass shooting, Democrats tend to spark discussion on reviving gun control with legislation proposed and subsequently rejected, but why does the dialogue end when we are in a lull between shootings? Why is the push for Congress to tighten gun control dependent on the loss of innocent lives? Clearly the amount of money that the NRA donates to various Senators and Representatives has some effect on vote outcomes. However, it is more likely that debate is simply focused on the wrong topic. The issue is not the Second Amendment; the issue is gun violence and the proliferation of mass shootings. Whether you believe the Second Amendment was intended for militias or to protect an individual's right to own a gun, our Second Amendment rights can be protected even if we enact greater restrictions on the purchase and usage of guns.
America has almost as many guns as it has people, far exceeding any other country. Although our Constitution protects the right to bear arms, it does not protect the right to bear specific arms. No citizen needs an automatic weapon with a high-capacity magazine that can fire off excessive rounds and kill a significant number of innocent people in a matter of seconds. Several states, including California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York, have enacted gun control laws that ban the possession of semi-automatic weapons, while other states have put into place expanded background checks. If the federal government would only follow suit, America would have the potential to become a country where all of its citizens can feel secure, while maintaining their Constitutional rights in a way the founders likely intended.