James Holmes, a young man with bright red-orange hair walked into the crowded theatre in Aurora, Colo. and just as gunfire went off on the screen, he pulled out his guns and began to fire into the unsuspecting crowd. People dived in all directions as some protected loved ones, using their bodies as shields. Many others collapsed to the ground as bullets collided with their flesh. Of the victims, 12 died, the youngest at the age of 6 and the oldest at the age of 51. The U.S. was in shock.
Months later, Adam Lanza, another young man, shot his mother, who was a school teacher, and then walked into an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., shot the principal and advanced to his mother’s classroom, shooting dead every student in the room. Photos and video footage of children exiting buildings and parents waiting for news of their kids were shown on televisions across the country. 28 victims died that day, most of whom were children. Once again, the nation was in shock.
However, these aren’t the first mass shootings the United States has seen, far from it.
In 1999, two students entered Columbine High School with guns, killing 15 and injuring 24 before taking their own lives. For many Americans, this shooting, among many others, is one among many that they will never forget.
It seems as though this issue of shootings and gun control has only increased over the years. 2012 saw seven mass shootings in the U.S., an average of more than one mass shooting every two months. Not only has the issue grown in urgency, but so has the argument about gun control and what should be done to combat these problems.
Much of this argument over gun control is based on the second amendment to the U.S. constitution, which states, “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.” This sentence can be interpreted many different ways and many people are trying their hardest to fight against it.
Gabrielle Giffords, a previous senator who was shot in the head and has recovered with some physical difficulties and a speech impediment that makes her talk more slowly, spoke to the U.S. Senate on the issue during a gun hearing on Jan. 30. “Speaking is difficult but I need to say something important,” Giffords said. “Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying – too many children. We must do something.” She ended her short statement by explaining to the Senate that they need to be courageous and act immediately. She made it clear that the American people are counting on them and the decisions they make.
However, the National Rifle Association continues to fight back against gun control, even opposing new legislation, like harsher background checks. In a press conference on Dec. 21, 2012, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre blamed the senseless violence of the Newtown massacre on mental health.
“The truth is, that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters,” LaPierre said. “People that are so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons, that no sane person can ever possibly comprehend them.” LaPierre gave his condolences for the loss of the children in the Newton shooting, but he avoided citing guns as the cause of the violence, instead deciding to focus on the person holding the firearm as the main issue. Instead of more gun control, the NRA believes that what the U.S. needs is better mental health care.
But the U.S. is not the only country in the world that has faced these problems. Countries across the world vary in their laws regarding gun control, but it can be seen that countries with stricter gun control regulations have less gun violence.
Japan has some of the strictest regulations on gun ownership, where almost no one owns a gun and most firearms are entirely illegal. According to ivn.us, Japan only has 0.6 firearms per 100 people and had only 11 homicides caused by guns in 2008. The United Kingdom has 6.72 firearms per 100 people and only 18 people were murdered by guns in 2009. The same website states that the U.S. has 88.8 firearms per 100 people and had 10,225 gun related homicides in 2006. This is a large difference from the homicide and gun ownership rates of many other countries in the world.
Restrictions on gun ownership in the U.S. have been primarily blocked throughout the years as unconstitutional due to the second amendment. But as the argument about gun control wages on, it may simply come down to interpretation of that one sentence that has guarded American’s right to own a firearm since the founding of the country.