Thoughts and Prayers Don’t Curtail Gun Violence


Daniel Pachino

In the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL two weeks ago that left 17 Americans — 14 children and 3 adults — dead, it is time to say enough is enough. Something must be done by our government to stop the senseless killing of our country’s men, women and children.

Simply offering “thoughts and prayers” is no longer a viable response to the mass murders of innocent and defenseless citizens. I am not calling for the U.S. to eradicate civilian gun ownership. I am, however, calling for significant measures to be taken  to make our country a safer place for its citizens to live. I believe enacting meaningful gun control legislation would be a good place to start.

According to the Everytown for Gun Safety Fund, between 2012 and 2016, an average of 12,726 people have been killed by gun homicides in the U.S. — not including the other 21,637 gun suicides per year, which together amounts to over 34 thousand gun-related deaths in the U.S. annually. Compare that to another large and advanced country like Japan, which has a population of 127 million, where there were a mere six gun-related deaths in 2014.

As in America, it is legal for Japanese citizens to own firearms. It is, however, much more difficult to acquire them, and it requires dedication to do so. Obtaining a gun in Japan is much like the American process for getting a driver’s license. To obtain a gun in Japan, one must attend an all-day class, pass a written exam, pass a shooting test with 95-percent accuracy, take a mental health exam and pass a government-run background test.

Additionally, civilians are barred from purchasing handguns and semi-automatic weapons, such as an AR-15 — the weapon of choice of many mass shooters. Based on differences between Japanese and American gun culture, it is wrong to assume that America will simply adopt the Japanese’s gun legislation, but it can at least serve as a framework for legislation to stop the senseless killing of our fellow Americans.

It is no longer acceptable for our President and legislators in Congress to stand by and allow these mass killings to continue. It is time the NRA and NRA-backed Republican leaders realize they have massive amounts of blood on their hands due to their inaction. They must begin confronting this issue facing our country instead of deflecting questions about gun reform and offering their thoughts and prayers.

There are a number of simple changes our government can make to help facilitate a safer U.S. First, make it harder to obtain a gun. If it is more difficult to acquire a gun, then there will be fewer guns in circulation. And, if fewer guns are in circulation, then fewer people can kill each other with those guns.

A good place to start would be mandating universal background checks, something, according to recent Quinnipiac University poll, 97 percent of Americans support. A background check could have helped prevent Nikolas Cruz — who was surrounded by dozens of red flags — from getting the firearms he used to kill 17 of his peers in Parkland, FL. To take this a step further, why not make the process to obtain guns similar to the process to get a driver’s license? In most states, the entire process of earning a driver’s license takes at least six months, involves both written and physical exams and requires classes be taken.

Additionally, they require periodic re-testing to ensure people with a license are still fit to operate a car. Mandating a similar process for national gun licensing involving background checks, classes and written and physical exams would result in safer gun ownership nationwide and help keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people. Furthermore, these processes would allow for safe gun owners to continue owning guns and ensure people like Nikolas Cruz, with dozens of red flags surrounding them, do not.

Another measure to take is to ban the sale of semi-automatic assault rifles to civilians, particularly the AR-15 and its derivatives. There is no need for these guns to be in use by anyone except members of the military. The self-protection and hunting arguments do not apply to assault rifles. If someone feels they desperately need a gun to protect themselves then so be it; that right is protected by the Constitution. But that protection can be easily achieved by owning a shotgun or handgun instead of a weapon like the AR-15, which was designed for military combat. Additionally, banning modifications that increase the capabilities of assault rifles would go a long way in limiting the capabilities of potential mass shooters. The ban would take bump stocks, which allow semi-automatic weapons to function like fully-automatic weapons, and magazines of than 10 rounds off the market.

Conversely, the President’s proposal of arming 20 percent of teachers is the exact opposite direction we should be moving towards. This idea only further heightens the existing classroom battleground instead of making schools a safer place for America’s youth. Additionally, taking Trump’s senseless plan into action would mean arming over 700 thousand teachers and cost hundreds of millions in training, turning teachers into combatants instead of educators.

Many have and will continue to argue that deranged people will always find a way to get guns and kill people even with restrictions like these. Maybe some of them will, but I have a difficult time believing it wouldn’t keep guns out of the wrong hands.

I realize this is a very convoluted problem America is faced with and the forces acting against change from numerous groups are very powerful, but the system we have in place now clearly isn’t working. Why not try harder to keep guns out of the wrong hands?