There is one uniquely American tradition that is quickly bouncing back from a brief pause caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and that tradition is mass shootings. In 2021, the United States has put itself right back on the track of the skyrocketing rate of gun violence and mass shootings it has seen over the past few decades. No other country on the planet comes close to rivaling the U.S. when it comes to the number of mass shootings.
The U.S. has seen at least 147 mass shootings in 2021, 45 of those in the one-month period of March 16 through April 16, according to a CNN report. This is a societal problem that will only continue to worsen if steps aren’t taken to address it with more than “thoughts and prayers.”
The first and most obvious step is to address the mass shooters’ favorite weapon of choice: semi- or fully automatic weapons. Weapons such as the AR-15 and AK-47 are the most commonly used types of weapons in mass shootings since they are easy to reload and release a substantial amount of bullets in a very short amount of time. For example, Nikolas Cruz used an AR-15 when he entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, 2018, and killed 17 people in his six minutes and twenty seconds stroll through hallways and classrooms.
Britannica reports on an investigation that found that “high-capacity magazines were used in at least 50 percent of the 62 mass shootings between 1982 and 2012. When high-capacity magazines were used in mass shootings, the death rate rose 63 percent and the injury rate rose 156 percent.”
In the United States, it is considered a fundamental right to be able to own a gun as stated in the Second Amendment to the Constitution, however. The actual intent of the Second Amendment has been debated for decades with little common ground being found. The crucial phrase in that amendment is “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State…” What kind of limits that opening phrase puts on gun ownership will never be agreed upon by those on opposite sides of the gun control debate, and we are not going to argue it here.
What we will argue is that the Constitution is a living document and a work in progress. That is the very reason it has amendments. As the times and our culture have changed over the past 233 years, so has the Constitution through amendments. For example, amendments were added to prohibit slavery, give women the right to vote, prohibit the manufacture and sale of alcohol, and then legalize it again. The document is not etched in granite.
The Second Amendment was added to the Constitution in 1789. The most advanced weapon at that time would probably have been the Kentucky long rifle, capable of firing two or three rounds per minute. While it can be argued that the founding fathers foresaw some advancement in weapon technology, they could not have imagined a weapon such as the one used by Cruz that can fire up to 400 rounds per minute.
It is far past time to limit gun ownership. There is no legitimate reason for private citizens to own a military-grade weapon that can fire up to 400 rounds per minute. Even the very conservative former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote, “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.”
In response to the alarming increase of mass shootings which President Joe Biden has termed a “public health crisis,” the Biden administration has announced six executive orders to combat what President Biden called “a public health crisis.” The president aims to tighten restrictions on homemade firearms as they are assembled from parts that are not meant to function as a firearm and often lack serial numbers, which make them virtually untraceable. Biden also wants to make guns more expensive by putting a sales tax on devices that stabilize guns and require people who have these devices on their weapons to have a federal license.
While the president has not taken action on limiting or restricting the sale of military-grade weapons such as the AR-15 and AK-47, he has made his feelings on the need to do so be known on several occasions, even touting the moratorium on such weapons under the Bill Clinton administration as successful.
Limiting or restricting the sales of these weapons of mass killing is only one step in a rather long journey, but it is a step that must be taken. As stated at the outset, this is a uniquely American problem.
England has some of the strictest gun laws in the world. “In order to own a gun in the UK, a person needs to have a license, which is issued by the police. You need one of these to buy ammunition too” according to BBC. “Certain guns are completely against the law, and you could not buy or own them unless you had special permission from the government.”
Since 2010, England has only had two mass shootings, one leaving zero people dead and 12 injured and the other leaving 13 dead, including the shooter. The numbers in other advanced nations are similar to those in England.
America, we have a problem.