BY SANDRA RIANO
On October 1, Umpqua Community College lost ten lives to on-campus gun violence. This tragic event resonated with students across the country, specifically Community and County Colleges with the Association of Community College Trustees calling for a nationwide moment of silence on campuses, including the County College of Morris.
In response to this massacre, gun rights activists began to say that if everyone or anyone on that campus had a gun then they would have survived. However, while Umpqua Community College is considered a “gun-free zone,” Oregon law allows anyone with a concealed firearms permit to bring guns onto campus. On the day of the shooting some students like John Parker, an Army Veteran, had their licenses and guns with them on campus but didn’t intervene with the shooting for fear of being mistaken for the shooter and being killed by the police. Clearly more guns on college campuses are not the answer to these consistent school shootings. Five of the nine victims were 20 years old or younger, eight died on the scene, and one died at the hospital, while eight others were injured.
According to a Mass Shooting Tracker, since the beginning of 2015 there have been 315 mass shootings in which at least four people have either been killed or injured. From January 1, 2015, to October 10 there have been 52 school shootings across America. With an average of more than one per week, we would expect legislation on this issue to be priority.
“Gun homicides are seven times higher in the U.S. than in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom” according to the Washington Post. Guns are ingrained into American culture and are mentioned within our Bill of Rights as a personal right but the amendment has been misinterpreted as technology advances. The guns the founding fathers had in mind were muskets that took several minutes to reload, not automatic weapons with hundreds of rounds of ammunition. They also intended for a “well regulated militia,” presumably to help defend themselves from an attack from the government back in the 1780’s. More important than the right to bear arms is the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for everyone. Students shouldn’t be living in constant fear of public spaces because of lax gun control.
If gun owners were as responsible as they claim to be then there wouldn’t be weekly news stories about toddlers and children shooting and killing friends and relatives. While no one has come up with perfect legislation yet on this issue, there are some regulations that have to be put into place, including universal background checks which would prevent those with a criminal record or a history of domestic abuse from legally purchasing guns, videotaping gun sales in gun shops, and finding a system to track guns more effectively, as well as requiring rigorous training and permit renewals. The Oregon shooter’s guns were all legally acquired under his mother’s name. We can’t be devastated by a mass shooting, do absolutely nothing to prevent the next one, and then act surprised when ten more innocent college students are killed.
Regulation is the answer to this problem but there has not been any indication of how legislation will regulate black market gun sales, gun thefts and other paths criminals use to acquire guns. Liberals do not want to take guns away and conservatives don’t want everyone to have a gun. A “good guy” with a gun doesn’t cancel out a “bad guy” with a gun, it just increases the chances of someone getting hurt.. Instead of discussing how we can rationally stop these massacres, gun rights activists blame these incidents on mental health. Research shows that those with mental illness are actually less likely to be violent and more likely to be victims and linking gun violence to mental health perpetuates the stigma behind mental illnesses.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has research that shows there are approximately 31,672 gun related deaths every year. Insteading of scapegoating innocent people, gun rights activists need to realize that their right to own a gun has to be restricted in order to protect everyone.