- That is, according to CNN, the number of school shootings that have taken place in the United States in 2018. This averages out to approximately 1.5 school shootings per week, with some of these shootings resulting in double digit casualties. The one that most certainly hits closest to home is the tragedy that took place in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in which an armed gunman freely entered the school and killed 17 people. Of course, in the wake of this massacre, the country is experiencing a new wave of outcries for protective laws, gun reform, and other similar measures.
While this issue may seem pressing now, it is important to remember that the United States is no stranger to these events. From the tragedy that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, to events even further in the past such as the Columbine Massacre in 1999, the United States has repeatedly experienced times of desperation and ensuing outcries for gun reform. Sadly, however, none of these events resulted in any definitive legislative action from the federal government or most states. Tragically, at least at the federal level, the story remains the same.
There were brief glimpses of hope, such as Donald Trump telling Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) that he would be willing to consider an assault weapons ban proposed by Senate Democrats. There were instances of companies and legislators speaking out against the National Rifle Association, and even severing ties with them completely. However, despite these early positive indicators, it appears that the gun lobby has won again. President Trump has scaled back his support for raising the age of purchase on weapons, saying in a tweet that there was “not much political support.” Furthermore, the NRA has increased its lobbying and donation efforts, and is also suing the State of Florida to block its recent law that increased purchasing ages on all firearms to 21 years old. Despite the political momentum created by the students in Parkland, the gun lobby remains powerful. There must be something that we, as Americans, can do to push for real gun reform, so as to ensure that nobody else is harmed by a, frankly, preventable crime.
The law that was recently enacted by the State of Florida, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, offers many good solutions, and we should certainly celebrate the first real gun control in Florida in over 20 years. But this first good step leaves some critical solutions out. For instance, the law provides that one can only purchase firearms at 21 years of age, a ban which only previously applied to handguns. Furthermore, it institutes a 30-day waiting period after the purchase of a firearm before one can take possession of it, a rule which also only previously extended to handguns. It also allows officers to petition a court for a temporary order that allows a policeman to remove a firearm from a person who is at risk of harming himself or others. Unfortunately, the law is missing a critical step: a complete ban of assault weapons. These weapons, such as the AR-15 used at Stoneman Douglas, should not be allowed anywhere in civilian hands, and for one reason: they are simply too excessive. Despite their uses for recreation, hunting, and “self-defense”, it is clear from the sheer amount of lives lost in 2018 alone due to unregulated assault weapons, we should not allow civilian access to what can be considered, practically, as weapons of war designed to take human lives. Bans of this nature are not completely foreign to America, with the District of Columbia attempting to outlaw public wielding of a handgun in 1976. However, this ban was nullified in the 2008 Supreme Court case, District of Columbia v. Heller. The argument was that, due to the Second Amendment, it was unlawful to completely ban any sort of firearm. While the Constitution does guarantee the right to bear arms, the American people must realize that their safety is more important than the pride or perceived “security” that comes with gun ownership.
While an all-out ban may be offensive to some, it is evident that the status quo is not acceptable. As Mike Fernandez, CEO of MBF Healthcare Partners, said in a recent op-ed in the Miami Herald: “It is clear that the risks outweigh the benefits.”
Whether you agree with Florida’s reforms, or the modest approach taken by President Trump, one thing is clear; we must protect our children. We need some form of gun reform, and we need it now.