Gun Control Reform

 Illustration By Andrew Khanian

Illustration By Andrew Khanian

Out of all the amendments to the Constitution, one in particular causes a huge divide in not only politics, but also within society as a whole. The second amendment 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.”

When the original Bill of Rights was ratified, there was no standing military at the time, so Americans formed armed militia groups to keep the peace. Now it is the 21st century where the US holds a strong military, and when people talk about politics, the subject of gun control is usually brought up.

Gun control does not mean getting rid of guns, but rather more comprehensive background checks and maybe not selling military grade weapons to civilians. When has anyone needed an AR-15 to hunt animals?

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention for 2016 recorded 33,594 firearm related deaths -- that is about 92 deaths by firearms per day.

“There is a lot our nation can do to improve gun control,” said Marisa Martin, a Biochemistry major at Santa Monica College. “There have been a lot of study’s and in other nations over and over its been proven that stricter gun control has decreased gun related violence incidents.” Martin does believe that people should arm themselves, just not with automatic weapons. “Civilians should not have access to military grade weapons,” Martin said.

Stricter gun control has been a controversial talking point for a while, but it is becoming a more and more relevant issue. Some people even believe in abolishing the second amendment. “At the time when the [original] amendments were written [it was needed] because of the era they were in, but this is a new day and age … at that time it was okay to have, but now I think we should abolish the second amendment completely,” said Emerald Johnson, a Business major at SMC. “Stricter gun laws could be a start for abolishing the second amendment, I feel like it might not ever be abolished, at least stricter gun laws …especially military weapons that shouldn’t be accessible just to anyone.”

One popular solution to this issue is the idea of the US following Australia's example from 1996. In April of that year, there was a mass shooting known as the Port Arthur Massacre in Tasmania, which killed 35 people and injured 23. The gunman used two semi-automatic weapons. Two months latter, Australia started implementing a set of strict gun laws known as the National Firearms Agreement, which banned semi-automatic long guns, made the legal purchase of firearms more difficult, and required people to have a genuine need for the firearm they wish to buy, pass a safety test, show good moral character, and wait at least 28 days. Also the buyer could not have any restraining orders for violence, among other restrictions. On top of that, professor Simon Chapman and his colleagues at the University of Sydney found that from 1979 to 1996, Australia had only 13 mass shootings. Five or more victims in a shooting incident warrants national headlines. For more than twenty years, there have been no mass shootings in Australia that meet this criteria.

The possibility that the US government will implement the same kind of laws Australia did is not likely. Especially since one of the main Republican party contributors is the National Rifle Association (NRA). Do some people really need guns? Absolutely. People can need guns for different reasons: personal protection, a dangerous line of work, or hunting wild game, for instance.

“I understand the Second Amendment, but I also have issues and problems when individuals have as many weapons that they have that can hurt people,” said Chief of Police Johnnie Adams, of the Santa Monica Community College District.

Chief Adams advises gun owners to take precautions. “I would lock them up, I would keep them stored unlocked, I would make sure you’ve taken a gun safety class, I would make sure that it’s in a safe where you have a trigger lock at the very least,” he said.

Even if you do not own a firearm, taking these classes because you never know when you will come in contact with a gun. In addition to personal safety, the US government should take a page out of Australia's playbook, and have more extensive background checks.