Hold officials accountable for gun violence
By MADHU SRIDHAR
Seventeen students and staff members were killed at yet another mass shooting in a school in Parkland, Florida, just two weeks back. In November 2017, in the deadliest mass shooting in Texas history, a man walked into a small church in Sutherland Springs and gunned down 26 people. A month before, in October, a gunman killed 58 people and injured more than 500 at the Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas. These were all innocent victims.
Where are we heading? Why are we refusing to admit that we, in United States of America, have a serious problem with guns and gun violence? Is the frequency of occurrence desensitizing us?
More than thoughts and prayers
We appreciate our elected officials responding with their messages of “thoughts and prayers.” However, we elect our lawmakers to make laws and keep our communities safe. The solutions to this issue are not mysteries. We have lack of sufficient “common sense gun safety laws.” For one, we cannot continue to allow easy access to weapons.
How refreshing to read the news that as the Parkland students returned to classes, Dick’s Sporting Goods, with more than 600 stores, is immediately banning sales of all assault-style rifles in its stores. They are going a step further and will not sell any gun to anyone less than 21 years of age, regardless of local laws. This is leadership.
Firms including Hertz car rental, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines have ended discounts to NRA members after immense pressure put through social media.
We must use our power as voters
What can we do as individuals? This being election season, we need to use our power as voters as well. Let us elect only those candidates who commit to address the issue of gun violence and gun safety.
And we must hold them accountable once elected. Elected offices do not belong to those who don’t know how to solve problems especially when solutions are fairly obvious and years of research and experiences have produced results in other countries.
In Australia, for example, four mass shootings occurred between 1987 and 1996. After those incidents, public opinion turned against gun ownership and Parliament passed stricter gun laws. Australia hasn't had a mass shooting since.
So what exactly did Australia do?
Less than two weeks after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, all six Australian states agreed to enact the same sweeping gun laws banning semi-automatic rifles and shotguns – weapons that can kill many people quickly.
In addition, they introduced 28-day waiting periods, thorough background checks and a requirement to present a “justifiable reason” to own a gun. Self-protection is not accepted as a justifiable reason to own a gun as it is in the U.S. In the 21 years since the laws were passed, about one million semi-automatic weapons – roughly one third of the country's firearms – were sold back to the government and destroyed, nearly halving the number of gun-owning households in Australia.
Easy access means more violence
Among developed nations, the U.S. is by far the most violent – because of easy access to firearms. The CNN article How US gun culture compares with the world by Kara Fox, opens: “The United States. Home to liberty, the pursuit of happiness and the most mass shootings in the world.”
According to this article,
- Americans own 48% of the estimated 650 million civilian-owned guns worldwide.
- Americans own more guns per capita than any other country in the world.
- The U.S. makes up less than 5% of the world’s population, but holds 31% of the global mass shooters
- Gun homicide rates are 25.2 times higher in the U.S. than other high-income countries in the world.
Inaction and status quo cannot be an option with mass killings occurring with increasing frequency in recent years in our neighborhood schools, churches, concerts, or shopping malls. Enough is enough. Let us plunge into action and demand that our lawmakers address the issue.
Let your voices be heard.