After the horrific shooting in Parkland, Fla., on Valentine’s Day, we saw a nation shocked and horrified by yet more scenes of senseless violence. Another 17 innocent lives were lost, and many people’s’ sense of safety, damaged by Sandy Hook and Las Vegas, was further reduced. Once again, the debate over how to best prevent such incidents from happening has sprung up in full force. Rather than the usual counter-productive bickering that occurs after we should instead work in good faith to come up with solutions that are well thought out, reasonable and that would actually prevent further violence.
Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen the respective sides retreat to their usual corners, armed with the same arguments. Many left-wing politicians have come out saying that new restrictions on guns, such as raising the firearms purchasing age or banning certain types of guns, should be implemented. Those on the right have said that these measures wouldn’t prevent criminals from obtaining such weapons, and that it takes deranged people to even commit these atrocities in the first place, regardless of the weapons used.
What’s new though, is the new heights to which the vitriol has been raised. Students from Stoneman Douglas High School have been accused of being staged actors for anti-gun causes. The NRA has been subject to an intense shaming and boycott campaign. Though protected by freedom of speech, such actions speak loudly of the sad fact that many are unable to see the other side of the argument as real people with legitimate beliefs, rather than deniers or idiots.
To state the talking points, yes, this is the only country in the world where this kind of thing happens on a regular basis. The United States has more gun violence per capita than most industrialized Western nations. But other nations in Latin America such as El Salvador have much higher rates of gun deaths than the U.S., while having fewer guns per person. Switzerland is a highly developed country with high rates of gun ownership, and very few gun deaths. I think it’s safe to say there’s more to this story than is usually stated.
Looking over facts and statistics, there are other problems that go hand in hand with gun violence, such as someone’s mental state and their connection to society. There is also the fact that the FBI did not follow tips into the Parkland suspect sent to them weeks before the shooting, and Parkland police had been aware of him for quite some time. Clearly there were a multitude of failings here that need to be addressed.
We also need to dispel the notion of blaming these shootings on pro-gun rights politicians and organizations. It is said that lawmakers, often Republican, are “bought off” by the NRA, but this misrepresents the overall amount of money operating in politics these days. According to opensecrets.org, the NRA spent a total of about $1.1 million dollars on the 2016 election cycle, while the total amount of money raised by presidential, Senate, and House candidates combined was over $3 billion dollars. Clinton and Trump earned around the same amount of money from pro-gun control and pro-gun rights groups respectively during 2016.
Rather than continuing to tear each other apart of this, we should come together to come up with common sense solutions that are carefully considered and well planned. Passing ill-advised legislation just to be seen as “doing something” is just as bad as doing nothing. And nothing will happen if both sides of this debate continue to see each other as evil.
Though it’s probably far-fetched, my hope is that eventually everyone in our nation can come together with open minds and hearts to consider all parts of this issue. We may have to abandon our stereotypes and attacks against those who disagree with us, but we need to find a solution to this problem. There is no silver bullet, any fix will have to be multifaceted and evidence-based, but I know that it is possible if we really make an effort.
Connor Kockler is a Sauk Rapids-Rice High School student. He enjoys writing, politics, and news, among other interests.