Written by Eva Zhu, Staff Writer
On February 14, a former student of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida murdered 17 of his schoolmates with an AR-15. This has already been the eighth school shooting of 2018 (eight in seven weeks!) that that have culminated in death or injury in the United States. Since 2007, at least 173 people have been killed with different versions of semi-automatic AR-15s. These shootings include those that have happened in Las Vegas (58 dead), San Bernardino (14 dead), Sandy Hook Elementary (27 dead), and the Aurora Century 16 movie theatre (12 dead).
An AR-15 is a semi-automatic rifle that is capable of firing around 150 rounds in less than five minutes. A weapon of this calibre has no business being in the hands of civilians — especially not the hands of 19-year-old boys who have exhibited histories of disturbing behaviour.
This might come as a shock, but from 1994 to 2004 — after two back-to-back shootings in 1993 — the Federal Assault Weapons Ban was put in place. The law banned 18 models of assault weapons, and those featuring military-style accessories. Although the overall rates of gun crime stayed fairly consistent, the number of mass shootings decreased dramatically. During those 10 years, there were only 12 mass shootings, compared to the 63 mass shootings since 2004.
Immediately after the law expired, efforts were made by Democrats to renew the law. However, all proposals were unsuccessful. Former president Barack Obama tried to propose the same law again in 2012 after the Sandy Hook massacre, this time without a ten-year expiry date. Unsurprisingly, the bill did not pass the Republican-controlled House and Senate.
The chances of President Donald Trump enacting any sort of gun control during his time in the Oval Office is slim to none. He is paid obscene amounts of money by the National Rifle Association (NRA) to continue endorsing semi-automatic rifles. In 2016, they spent over $21 million on Trump’s election campaign, which explains why he praises them to no end.
Some of the current administration’s favourite phrases to utter after a shooting are things like “it’s too early to politicize this tragedy” and “we need to pray for the victims.” By appealing to these sorts of traditionally minded, “common decency” arguments, we lose sight of coming up with actual practical solutions. Prayer is fine; grief is fine. But prayer and grief cannot, and do not need to, come at the expense of our problem-solving capacities, and we need to stop framing gun control discussion as an either-or.
Prayers are nice. What are prayers going to do when people are being gunned down left and right? Prayers aren’t going to bring the dead back to life, nor will they reduce the mass shootings in America. Besides, you can pray and also take tangible measures to prevent gun violence! They aren’t mutually exclusive. The current administration won’t even think about enacting a gun control policy until one of their own children is gunned down.
Additionally, gun violence and mass shootings will always be politicized. Why do you think the Clinton Administration passed the Federal Assault Weapons Ban? When hundreds of people are murdered in a year, not talking about gun control is a surefire way for Americans to lose faith in you. Just because you’re sticking your head in the sand and pretending the issue isn’t there, doesn’t mean anyone else is.
Emma Gonzalez — a senior at Stoneman Douglas — is a force to be reckoned with. Since the shooting at her school, she has made gun activism her main goal. Her “We call BS” speech at a gun control rally was a “fuck you and your prayers” to the current administration that we all needed to see happen eventually.
Despite the ridiculous far-right conspiracies suggesting that teens like Gonzalez are crisis actors paid by “the Left,” Gonzalez isn’t being paid by the NRA to keep silent, nor is she sprouting falsehoods, since she has actually seen her friends and classmates die, and lived to tell the tale. Since her speech, we have seen fellow schoolmates interrogate Marco Rubio at a Town Hall for school shootings and stage a lie-in outside the White House to protest the way Donald Trump is handling the topic of school shootings and demand gun reform.
As long as people continue to play smoke and mirrors with the gun control debate, trying to switch the narrative through appeals to tradition, courtesy, and downright tinfoil-hat behaviour, no logical solution to gun violence can be developed.