On Valentine's Day, Nikolas Cruz marched into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Florida and fired bullets through the halls. The shooting that lasted for three minutes left 17 students and staff dead and injured 14 others.
The incident has sparked mass protests on the streets with students, parents, and politicians demanding more stringent gun control laws.
A few of the students who survived the attack have vowed to make sure theirs will be the last mass school shooting the country will see.
First, A Few Facts
Even though Americans only account for around 5% of the world’s population, they account for 48% of guns owned by civilians and 31% of mass shooters globally. Furthermore, gun violence does not stop at mass shootings, with 62% of deaths due to suicide and 50 women killed each month by their partners.
The AR-15 gun carried by Cruz has become a weapon of choice for mass shooters and is surprisingly very easy to purchase in the United States. The earlier version of this semi-automatic gun was used by US soldiers during the Vietnam war.
The Gun Debate Continues...
After each incident, politicians have called for universal background checks and red flag laws on a national level to prevent interstate trafficking. Interstate trafficking occurs when people go to another state that has weaker gun regulations to acquire guns when their own state prevents them from making purchases.
A universal background check would require all gun sellers to check if their customers are “okay” to buy a gun. A red flag law allows for law enforcement or family members to petition the courts to take away guns from someone who is mentally disturbed or is not fit to own a gun. Both background checks and red flag laws have been associated with decreases in firearm deaths.
However, Republicans are opposed to gun control laws, and after each shooting, point out that the offender had a mental disease. They claim gun restrictions are only necessary on the mentally disturbed. However, offenders with severe mental illnesses only account for 1% of shooters. In fact, President Trump removed laws that had been put by President Obama which made it harder for people with mental illnesses to buy guns.
Can Anything Be Done?
One of the biggest reason why reform has not taken place? The National Rifle Association (NRA). This powerful gun lobbyist has consistently promoted more gun ownership, claiming that it is the only way to stop bad guys with guns. This association is also infamously known for their donations towards government officials in return for favors, such as loosening gun laws or preserving gun rights. In the 2017 election, they spent approximately 11.4 million dollars supporting Trump and 19.7 million against Clinton, in addition to supporting Republican Congress members.
We know from Australia's experience that the answer to mass shootings is to have strict gun regulation. After a mass shooting in 1996, Australia's government passed the National Firearm Registry which accomplished three things. It established a registry to list every single gun owned in Australia, banned certain types of weapons such as shotguns and semi-automatic rifles, and requires a permit in order for someone to purchase a gun. Since then, there have been no mass shootings and a huge drop in homicides.
The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High have had enough. They have planned marches and meetings with politicians, and are joined in the cause by other students around the country. We can only hope that this time things will change and schools will remain safe places for learning as they should be.
Sources: NYTimes, BBC, CNN, Everytownresearch.org, VOX