Stanescu-Bellu: Lay Down Your Weapons

The United States’ toxic relationship with firearms is costing people their lives.

by Sofia Stanescu-Bellu | 3/1/18 12:45am

“To stop a bad guy with a gun, it takes a good guy with a gun,” proclaimed Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president and chief executive officer of the National Rifle Association at the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference. In an endgame situation like the one LaPierre describes, it could be that the only way to protect people would be through the use of a firearm, especially if faced with someone that also has a firearm. But the issue with LaPierre’s logic lies in the fact that he accepts that such a situation would occur instead of doing everything in his power to stop it.

In the wake of the Parkland, Florida shooting, a section of conservatives, including President Donald Trump, are increasingly arguing that the best way to prevent a similar situation from occurring is to, counterintuitively, have more guns. Some have proposed the arming of teachers and other administrators in schools in order to protect students. Therein lies the issue: The situation surrounding guns in the United States has arrived at the point where innocent children in schools need to be protected from mass shooters.

Mass shootings are an epidemic in America. The United States has 5 percent of the world’s population but 31 percent of its mass shooters. In 2007, there were 88.8 civilian-owned firearms for every 100 people in the U.S. The United States has the highest rate of homicide by firearm in the world, with 29.7 homicides by firearm per 1 million people. Mass shootings in the U.S. are becoming deadlier and deadlier, with over 400 people killed in 200 school shootings since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. That’s 400 too many. With a situation of this magnitude, the only way to prevent more tragedy is to find the root cause of this festering infection and put an end to senseless, preventable violence.

Why do Americans need so many guns? Why do civilians have access to military-grade weapons designed for mass destruction? While the Constitution gives Americans the right to bear arms, many have come to forget that the Constitution was written over 250 years ago. At that time, the majority of guns were muskets that were not technically equipped to fire over 400 rounds per minute like modern AR-15 assault rifles.

The Second Amendment was written during a time of great upheaval and change — it was the aftermath of a revolution and the Founding Fathers were wary that the country might descend into another violent conflict and wanted citizens to be able to protect themselves. The country is no longer in the 18th century. It is no longer at war. In fact, there have not been battles fought on American soil since the Battle of Wounded Knee in 1890. So then what is the justification for owning assault weapons or any firearm for that matter? This mentality of clinging to guns and refusing to acknowledge that they do more harm than good when they are readily accessible is costing men, women and children their lives.

I am not going to argue to repeal the Second Amendment or to ban all guns. It would be futile to do so. Like it or not, guns are part of the fabric of American history, and it would take an inhuman effort to untangle America’s relationship with firearms. What I am arguing for is common sense: Access to guns needs to be restricted. There need to be extensive background checks, mental health evaluations of people interested in purchasing such a weapon, no civilian access to assault rifles and measures that ensure the small number of people that would end up purchasing a weapon are thoroughly vetted and have clear motives.

At the end of the day, the gun industry brings a select group of people a lot of money. How could the NRA ever have America’s best interests at heart? When LaPierre stepped up to that podium to give his speech, was he thinking about the 17 people murdered in Parkland and the millions more at risk due to the easy access to firearms or was he thinking about his bottom line? America, lay down your weapons. How many more people need to lose their lives for those in power to realize that it is at last time to make a drastic change?