The controversial debate on gun control has returned to the forefront of political debates in the recent days since the Las Vegas massacre, where at least 58 people have died and over 500 were injured.
According to The Federalist, the original purpose of the Second Amendment was “to give the people the means to overthrow the government in the event it becomes tyrannical.” Over time, however, guns and weaponry have become increasingly used as tools for hunting and self-defense.
Chris Cilizza, a CNN reporter, said that according to a 1999 Pew Poll, 49 percent of Americans cited hunting as their primary reason for owning a firearm and protection as their secondary reason. By 2013, 48 percent of Americans had a gun for protection, while only one in three people claimed hunting as their primary reason. This has led many modern Americans to believe that the Second Amendment is intended to protect our right to defend ourselves against common criminals and has made gun regulation a contentious issue.
Among students at Mills College, most seem to agree there should be stricter regulations on guns, ammunition and gun accessories. Cherry Chan, a Mills student, said she believes that gun laws should be more strictly enforced because with fewer guns, there would be less gun violence.
“Of course, violence will still happen, but gun violence will decrease,” Chan said.
Students also feel that the number of guns in circulation makes us more vulnerable to violent attacks. Courtney Charriere, another Mills student, expressed her concerns about the accessibility, and subsequent monitoring, of firearms.
“I believe that we should enforce stricter background checks and waiting periods before being able to purchase a gun — there is no reason why someone should be able to walk into a store and walk out of that store with a firearm on the same day,” Charriere said. “We need to make better efforts to monitor who is buying guns, and where those guns are going, and there should be a cap on the number of guns any one citizen is allowed to own without some additional licensing.”
Among the most recent mass shootings in American history, some of the most notable massacres occurred at a concert, a gay nightclub, an historically Black church, a college, and a movie theater. With many Mills and other college students frequenting movie theaters, concerts, nightclubs and taking solace in a church service, the increase of mass shootings in recreational places is worrisome.
It is even more troubling for Mills students when considering that Mills is located in the Bay Area, which is championed as one of the most inclusive places for individuals with fluid gender and sexual identities. The Bay Area hosts some of the most popular Gay Pride parades and celebrations, which are also popular events amongst Mills students.
Mills is also more immediately located in Oakland, a city with a large population of Black residents, according to the Bay Area Census, and predominantly Black churches like Allen Temple Baptist Church, St. Augustine’s, and Bethany Baptist Church which are all within fifteen minutes of the campus.
The issue that many Americans are currently facing is not the legality of gun possession, but the type of militarized guns and weaponry that are easily obtainable to people via the gun market.
On CNN Tonight, Ryan Chiaverini, who lost two friends in the Las Vegas shooting, questioned how the government determines what type of tragedies are worthy of immediate rectification.
“When 9/11 happened, we changed the way that we travel in this country forever to prevent it from ever happening again, yet [mass shootings] continue to happen and we do nothing,” Chiavernini said on Oct. 4.
Despite countries like Australia demonstrating effective results after enforcing stricter gun laws on their citizens, the United States has been reluctant to implement similar regulations.
Vox reporter Alexander Bisley said that following Port Arthur, the massacre in Australia that left 35 dead and 23 injured, Tim Fischer, Australia’s deputy prime minister at the time, passed legislation that banned all automatic and semiautomatic firearms.
“Seven years after the bill went into effect, annual firearm-related homicide rates had declined by 42 percent. Firearm-related suicides dropped by 57 percent, and during the 21 years since Port Arthur, there hasn’t been a single gun massacre in Australia.”
Some politicians, such as Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, and Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, have even argued that it is not appropriate to discuss gun legislation following a mass shooting. Even White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “I think that there will be, certainly, time for that policy discussion to take place. But that’s not the place that we’re in at this moment.”
Amber Hester believes that the government should be as emphatic about ensuring Americans’ safety as they are about protecting Americans’ right to bear arms.
“I think America has a strong will to keep certain freedoms
,” Hester said. “But our freedom cannot be secured without safety of life. These mass shootings, which are becoming more frequent and threatening, should be proof that the purchase of guns is detrimental to our safety.”
Meanwhile, stocks in the gun market have risen following the tragedy in Las Vegas, according to Tiffany Hsu of The New York Times.
“The prospect of tighter gun rules often leads consumers to stockpile firearms,” she reported, calling it “an apparent continuation of a morbid trend linked to mass shootings.”
In the coming weeks, Congress is expected to work on legislation that will regulate bump fire stocks, which would prevent individuals from being able to modify their semi-automatic weapons so that they fire like automatic weapons. However, it is still unclear how they will address many Americans’ concerns that guns are too easy to obtain and maintain.