Gun control in America has been a controversial topic over the past decade. The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which was ratified in 1791, grants citizens the right to keep and bear arms. Though technology and society have changed since then, the laws have not.
In an interview on National Public Radio last October, UCLA professor Adam Winkler, who wrote the book Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America, told host Michael Martin: “I think if we wanted to look to a historical period that put us on this trajectory (towards high gun-related homicide), it’s probably World War II, because after World War II, and even before World War II, there was a big push in Europe to disarm the civilian population. In the years since, America has really armed up. And today, we have as many guns as there are people.”
Winkler also talked about how the National Rifle Association (NRA) played a big role in gun ownership and slack gun control laws in America since the mid-1970s. According to Winkler, the reason the NRA was, and still is, so politically powerful is because the people who own guns feel very strongly about their right to own them. So much so, that voters and influencers in their respective communities are more organized.
On the other hand, people who want more gun control are so convinced that it’s common sense to have such laws, they aren’t as passionate or organized in fighting the NRA and its supporters–that is, until recently.
According to a Time Magazine post from last November, since 1982, there have been more than 820 deaths and more than 1,750 wounded citizens due to domestic mass shootings. However, it’s the recent Parkland, Florida shooting which took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, that put the subject of gun violence back on the public’s radar.
During the Parkland attack, 17 people were killed and 17 were injured. In the age of social media, many students took videos of themselves and their peers hiding in the school, while the sound of scared teens and gunshots echoed in the background. Watching these videos and having them shared across social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook triggered sympathy from citizens all over the country and increased the support for gun control.
Almost immediately, students who survived the shooting started speaking at rallies, giving personal accounts of what it was like to be in the situation, and begging people to speak to their local representatives to enforce stronger gun control laws that would prevent others from going through the same thing. The actions and agenda of the Parkland students fueled March for Our Lives, a nationwide protest against the NRA and politicians who support lax gun control.
Organizers encouraged a nationwide school “walkout,” asking students to leave school in the middle of the day to protest the fact that public schools are so unprepared for mass shootings.
These protests have helped keep the topic of gun violence relevant and has even made a dent in the NRA’s influence. The NRA made many public speeches in response to the protests and broadcasted commercials negating the relationship between gun violence and the lack of gun control to make sure its members know that its message hasn’t changed.
For the future of gun control, it’s unclear which way the pendulum will swing. The Second Amendment specifically 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.”
Over the years, the U.S. Supreme Court has cited this amendment in its rulings, which have upheld the right of states to regulate firearms. However, in June 2008, the Court made a decision that allowed individuals the right to bear arms for personal use such as recreational sports or home defense. This is the right that has stirred controversy over who should or should not own a gun.
“I think the rest of the nation should definitely enforce stricter gun laws,” said WCC student Travis Talamoa. “I think we’re just too separated by our political views and opinions to ever make any progress towards a safer environment.”
by Hannah Bailey, Ka ‘Ohana Staff Reporter