I was a Freshman in high school when the Columbine shooting happened. April 20th, 1999 changed everything about going to school. For the rest of the year, we had emergency drills, and were sent home for many copycat threats that followed. Counselors were on hand in the days following, if anyone needed to talk. Trench coats were banned and the media scared us into thinking that anyone wearing one, or listened Marilyn Mansion might just shoot our heads off. Though oddly, metal detectors were not put in.
I had never thought about getting killed at school before Columbine happened. It was certainly a scary thought that I could be sitting in Math class and be dead a moment later.
9/11 happened as I started my Senior year of High School. By the time I graduated it felt like America's innocence had been lost, and I was graduating into a whole new world. If America were a VHS, I would have rewound it into the innocent, naive past and paused there forever. But just like a movie playing, the world moved forward. All of those promises we made after Columbine were lost. America said "never again" and "things need to change".
But Columbine wasn't the first school shooting, and it wouldn't be the last. In fact, America's history of school shootings dates back to July 26, 1764. When four American Indians entered a log house school with guns, the teacher begged them to spare the students. He was shot and scalped, along with ten children. These early school shootings didn't provide the shooters with the nonstop glamorous news coverage that today's society does, but there are hundreds. You can read the full list here. If you look for the one common thread between the killers in these shootings, it seems to always be personal dispute, feelings of rejection, or mental illness. In many cases, the shooters have been treated with antidepressant medications which can cause suicidal and homicidal thoughts.
So why are we here we are again, 17 years after we first said "never again"? Mass shootings have only continued, and on a more frequent basis. Sandy Hook, Chattanooga, Charleston, Virginia Tech, Newtown, multiple movie theaters and now Oregon State. There have been 45 shootings so far in 2015. Even with the continuous deaths from gun violence, our government has done NOTHING to restrict gun access. President Obama recently said, "There is no other advanced nation on earth that tolerates multiple shootings on a regular basis and considers it normal."
As we all know the second amendment protects the right of the people to "keep and bear arms". Gun backers continuously trot this out as some sort of undeniable evidence that there should be no gun regulations. It says, in full: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
But let's keep in mind, the second amendment was written in 1791. Back then things were vastly different than they are in 2015. For instance, there were only 3.9 million people in the United States. You could own a slave. You could sell your daughter as dowry. There were no semi-automatic weapons that sprayed 50 bullets per minute. Indians attacked often and there were no police forces in the then 13 colonies to protect citizens. Clearly our country has grown and progressed, and our gun control laws need to follow it's lead.
Let's be clear. Having effective gun control laws in place will not take away guns. Americans will still be able to hunt and own a shot gun. The laws will simply make it harder to obtain a gun. This means, if you piss off a crazy person, they can't just walk to the nearest Walmart, buy as many semi-automatic weapons as they want, and massacre you and your entire office staff. I can't imagine why anyone would be ok with that idea.
So why can't America grow some balls and follow the lead of other countries who have taken a stand against these shootings?
Lets take a look at Australia, Norway, and Great Britain.
After Australia's Port Arthur massacre in 1996 which killed 35 people, strict gun control laws were put in place. The new legislation prohibited sale of semi-automatic and rapid fire guns. They required a 28 day waiting period to obtain a gun. Firearm owners had to be 18, complete a safety course, and have a genuine reason for owning a gun. Reasons could include sport shooting, hunting or occupational requirements. The amount of ammunition sold was restricted, and gun licenses could be restricted if evidence of mental illness was found. They also used revenue from a small tax hike to buy back over 700,000 fire arms. By 2012, suicide rates had dropped by 80%. Studies show the laws have not ended gun violence, but have decreased it in huge numbers. There hasn't been a school shooting
In response to the 1996 Dunblane school shooting, the UK completely banned sale of semi-automatic and pump action firearms. They began to require gun registration, and banned private handgun ownership in mainland Britain. Though the drop in gun violence wasn't as significant as it was in Australia, the number of killing are still less than 10% of those that happen in America.
In Norway in 2011, a shooter mass murdered 69 people on Utoya Island attending youth camp. Gun ownership and ammunition sales were strictly regulated in response, and a full ban on the type of semi-automatic weapon used was put into place. There are now 32 guns to every 100 people in Norway, and 89 per 100 in the United States.
I think the important thing we can take from these three countries, is that they took action. Yes, everyone knows that taking the same precautions these countries have will not end gun violence. There will always be a way to get guns illegally, even with laws. That old saying that guns don't kill people, people kill people is true. But a person with a semi-automatic and unlimited ammunition can do a hell of a lot more damage than someone with a knife can. If implementing some restrictions can save the live of even one innocent victim, why wouldn't we?
Despite what your views on gun control are, I hope there's one thing I hope we can all agree on. School and massacre shootings are a tragic, horrific thing. They should make you angry. They should make you livid, and as an American citizen they should make you want to stand up and shout for a change. Because if nothing changes, we will be here in another 17 years still saying "never again."