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THE SMOKING GUN
Even though we consider ourselves experts on all things bullet-related, this is one type of bullet we just can’t seem to figure out.
The recent back-to-back mass shootings in the U.S. (only 13 hours apart!) proved it was high time to freshen up on the gun control debate, one of the hottest election topics around the world — but especially in the United States.
So let’s bite the bullet and start there.
Thirty-one people were killed in two mass shootings over the weekend of Aug. 2, one at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and the other outside a bar in Dayton, Ohio.
The El Paso attack left 22 people dead and 24 injured, in the deadliest mass shooting thus far in 2019.
The 21-year-old gunman, whose name we are choosing to omit, was arrested at a nearby intersection shortly after firing shots at a Walmart around 10am and was charged with capital murder.
Police say he had posted a white nationalist, anti-immigrant manifesto on 8chan, immediately before the attack, claiming his inspiration for the shooting stemmed from the Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand.
The FBI is investigating the shooting as an act of domestic terrorism and a possible hate crime.
Only half a day later, a 24-year-old man (who reportedly also had an obsession with violence and mass shootings), opened fire at a bar in the Oregon Historic District of Dayton at 1:05am and killed nine people. Within 32 seconds of the attack, police shot and killed the perpetrator. (Can you imagine how much worse it could have been if police weren’t as quick to act?)
The two mass shootings left America, and the world at large, reeling with grief, fear and a new urge to revisit the gun control debate. (Again.)
GUN LAW LOW-DOWN
If you weren’t already proud to live in Canada, you definitely will be after reading this.
Canada’s federal laws severely restrict civilians from purchasing firearms (and for good reason). In order to buy or own a gun, an individual must have a valid restricted possession and acquisition license. Long story short, it’s pretty hard to legally acquire a gun in Canada.
And even with such tight laws, gun violence is still a prevalent concern in the country. The same weekend as the mass shootings in the U.S., there were 14 separate shootings over three days in Ontario.
The Canadian government is clearly making an effort to address gun-related issues plaguing the country. But still, the magnitude of gun violence in Canada is incomparable to the destruction caused by firearms south of the border.
Unlike in Canada, it’s not unusual for everyday people to own guns in America. Almost every single adult citizen can own or carry one if he or she wishes to, since it is regarded as a basic human right. In fact, statistics show that America has more guns than people.
It’s unsurprising, then, that the U.S. has six times as many firearm homicides as Canada, and almost 16 times as many as Germany.
The only Americans restricted from owning a gun are convicted criminals, and individuals committed to mental institutions. That’s pretty much it, leaving the door wide open for all sorts of folks to own (and use) guns.
THE AMENDMENT ARGUMENT
The Second Amendment functions as the legal basis for the gun control debate, which states the “right of the people to keep and bear arms.”
Individual states have their own rules for regulations like whether residents can, for instance, carry guns in public. Naturally, the states with more restricted gun control laws have far fewer gun-related deaths.
But even though some states govern the gun issue differently, the general laws regarding who may possess a gun is inscribed at a federal level.
The National Rifle Association of America, otherwise known as the NRA, is a gun rights advocacy group that is among the most powerful special interest lobby groups in the U.S. The NRA has lobbied against all forms of gun control, claiming guns make the country safer. (Seriously, though?)
Following the two deadly mass shootings, a gun violence research group reported that the amount of mass shootings across the U.S. so far in 2019 outpaced the number of days this year.
The findings predict that, if things continue the way they are, 2019 is on track to becoming the first year since 2016 with an average of more than one mass shooting per day.
As of Aug. 5, there have been 255 mass shootings in America. The Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as any incident in which at least four people were shot, excluding the perpetrator.
The GVA found there have been 8,796 gun-related deaths and 17,480 injuries thus far in 2019.
Clearly, the situation is grim.
RIGHT VS. LEFT
Unsurprisingly, the gun control debate has long been one of the most divisive issues facing U.S. politics, and with an upsurge in violent attacks, it’s become an even more contentious topic.
Here’s the big conundrum: those in favour of stricter gun regulations fear for their safety, while opponents also fear for their safety, claiming that restricting the right to bear arms would leave citizens incapable of protecting themselves in certain scenarios.
Generally speaking, Democrats and those on the left of the political spectrum are in favour of tighter gun control, while Republicans and those on the right of the political spectrum are against it.
But, there is rare common ground on some policy proposals. Both parties have demonstrated support for preventing those with mental illnesses from buying guns, barring gun purchases by people on federal no-fly or watch lists, and amping up background checks for private gun sales.
Though advocates of stricter gun laws remain skeptical given the president’s defence of the Second Amendment, plus the Republican Senate that is strongly backed by gun advocacy groups like the NRA, Trump has indicated he’s willing to consider beefing up background checks as well as implementing “red flag” laws, which would be a big step.
On the flip side, though, POTUS, who is known to have a cozy relationship with the NRA, assured the group that its view will be “fully represented and respected,” after Trump announced Congress will soon convene to discuss possible solutions.
The topic of gun control has already been a front and centre issue addressed by candidates running for the 2020 election, especially since so many young voters who have grown up in the mass shooting era have no tolerance for gun rights.
Democratic candidates, who are clearly more passionate about the matter than Republicans, have pledged extreme measures. Joe Biden, for instance, has called for an assault weapons buyback program and ban on high-capacity magazines. Elizabeth Warren declared a comprehensive plan on gun reform, targeting the NRA, police reform and stricter anti-corruption legislation.
Either way, gun control will undoubtedly be top of mind for most American voters in the upcoming election.
A wise man once said, “there’s always a darkness before the dawn.” Well, we certainly hope that’s the case for our neighbours to the south.
In the wake of such tragedy, there appears to be renewed hope for tougher gun laws.
More and more Americans are on board for restrictive legislation, after so many U.S. communities have been forced to grapple with mass shootings and great loss.
And the proof is in the numbers: a recent poll addressing whether Americans support a ban on assaults weapons showed 67% (that’s two-thirds of the U.S. population) do!
Despite their differences, lawmakers on both sides of the political spectrum have signalled revisiting gun-control legislations. Congress will return to Washington on Sept. 9, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says a full debate on gun control is scheduled in the coming month.
Only time will tell how this ever-evolving debate will ultimately settle. Stay tuned.