On October 1, Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old man from Florida, shot at a multitude attending the country music festival in Las Vegas from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. 59 people were killed and over 500 were injured, making this occurrence the “deadliest mass shooting in modern American history,” according to the Washington Post. A subsequent hotel room search revealed that Paddock carried with him 23 guns, including pistols and automatic assault rifles. Although his father was a bank robber—formerly in the Top 10 Most Wanted—Paddock himself had no previous criminal history and had raised no suspicions among family members.
|[Las Vegas Mass Shooting, http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20171003000001&ACE_SEARCH=1]
|According to CNN (http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/13/health/mass-shootings-in-america-in-charts-and-graphs-trnd/index.html), 9 mass shootings have occurred in the United States in 2017. The government definition of a mass shooting is “[an occurrence] where four or more people were indiscriminately killed in a public place.” Furthermore, the graph from CNN below shows that mass shootings have been far more prevalent in the United States than in any other country.
This tragedy has underscored a recurring question that has yet to be fully addressed: How can gun control laws in the United States be altered to prevent mass shootings? Why are mentally ill people given access to guns? Public figures, such as Jimmy Kimmel and Trevor Noah, have questioned why gun control laws have not been refined in our country. New York Times opinion editorial, “The Debate that Goes Nowhere” by Andrew Rosenthal, has addressed the quagmire around gun control in the Republican-controlled Congress.
Gun control laws have been static; no new gun control legislation has succeeded since 2007, according to New York Magazine (http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/10/republicans-progress-on-gun-control-is-still-depressing.html). Sources attribute the paralysis in the dialogue on gun control laws to two causes. First, gun control laws seem to have been politically polarized along party lines, with Republicans rejecting any new gun control proposals. Although the Washington Post (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/10/03/lots-of-republicans-actually-support-gun-control/?utm_term=.e4d0948a7ed5) has established that such a statement is not “always significantly related to support for gun control,” it has nevertheless often been attributed to the static state of gun control laws. Second, the ongoing debate regarding the possession of guns is centered around varying interpretations of the U.S. Constitution. According to the New York Times (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/04/opinion/vegas-gun-control-debate.html), one side claims that the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution gives citizens the “right to bear arms,” while the other argues that citizens do not need to own guns, especially those of mass-destruction such as AK-47 and rifles.
To learn about the opinions on this topic, I interviewed Kyle Welch, a senior at Phillips Academy:
1. What is your opinion on the current state of gun laws?
In my opinion, gun laws are already strict enough, and it already takes a ton of background checks and time in order to buy a gun. The issue is that bad people find ways to get guns regardless of how many laws are put into place, and they will buy guns illegally in a variety of places. All that new sweeping gun laws do is make it harder for normal citizens to buy guns, and make more people unable to defend themselves against the bad people who do not care about laws to begin with.
2. What do you think needs to be done to prevent mass shootings from happening in the future?
I think that to prevent mass shootings, America needs to focus less on guns, but focus more on mental health. Mental health has been a major issue in America, and it is the cause of so many of the deranged people you see trying to murder others. Guns are only used as a tool to commit a crime, but people will find other ways, like using cars, knives, bombs, or other methods. The only way to truly stop these crimes is to stop the problem at its source and help fix the mental health problems that plague the US today.
I also interviewed Cedric Elkouh, another senior at our school:
What is your opinion on the current state of gun laws? What do you think needs to be done to prevent mass shootings from happening in the future?
I think that there should be some sort of background check and process in place for all types of gun purchases, not just those made to licensed dealers because right now, many gun purchases, including legal ones, can be made by anyone, such as those at gun shows. If you make sure you understand who’s buying guns and for what reasons is similar to how, for example, you need to register your car to drive it on the road in most states and if that same principle is applied to guns, it won’t eliminate all gun related deaths, but it will hopefully be able to make some impact.
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