The State of Gun Control in America

On March 27, a shooter opened fire inside The Covenant School, a small and private Christian school with about 200 students located south of downtown Nashville, killing six people.

According to the Washington Post, there have been 377 school shootings since the Columbine High School shooting in 1999. The term mass shooting is defined as an incident in which four or more victims are injured or killed simultaneously by firearm, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

Prof. Edward Shea of the criminal justice department said that there are two root causes of gun violence: mental health challenges and easy access to weapons.

“When we study these cases, we have a lot to look at. I think mental health issues are prevalent. We often find physical abuse or some sort of childhood trauma, sexual abuse, domestic abuse, something of that nature,” said Shea. “So, there are warning signs. They build up to this, often a traumatic event that puts them in a downward spiral and they’re not getting enough help to deal with that problem.”

The topic has become heavily politicized, which Shea saw as one of the main problems with this issue.

“There’s no united front other than our national politicians saying that they understand the scope of it. There doesn’t seem to be a collective effort to really dive into it and maybe it’s because they can’t,” said Shea. “I think that the country is so divided politically that we can’t come to an agreement, and we’ve reached a point in society where we can’t even listen to it.”

There is an ongoing question of whether Congress is taking adequate measures to address this national issue, especially after yet another school shooting.

President Biden signed a bipartisan gun safety bill into legislation in June 2022, according to the Associated Press (AP). The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was signed just weeks after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas that killed 19 students and two teachers. This was seen as a bipartisan breakthrough.

According to NPR, the new law intended to expand background checks for those ages 18 to 21 seeking to purchase a gun. The Second Amendment is continuously interpreted and debated upon as it pertains to the issue of gun violence, which implies a citizen’s right to bear arms.

“There have been efforts at the state level to control the most dangerous weapons, but most of these efforts have run up against a Supreme Court that perversely interprets the Second Amendment’s language about state police powers and muskets to mean an individual right to stockpile semi-automatic weapons,” said Professor Steven Michels, chair of the department of political science and global affairs.

Shea reflected upon the history of the Second Amendment that is now challenged in modern-day America.

“We are historically a nation of weapons. The United States was founded on rebellion. At the time that they crafted the Second Amendment, the world was a totally different place than it is now. I think the challenges were different, what our founding fathers were concerned about is different than what the challenges of the world today are and that’s why they crafted that,” said Shea.

The Second Amendment isn’t the only issue when debating the topic of gun control. The National Rifle Association (NRA), who defends the Second Amendment lobbies against any form of gun control.

According to BBC News, the NRA suggested heavier security in schools rather than stripping away gun ownership rights following the Nashville school shooting.

The Assault Weapons Ban, also referred to as the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Act, banned the transfer, manufacture and possession of certain firearms that were labeled as assault weapons, according to the National Institute of Justice.

“The national government should have renewed the Assault Weapons Ban after it expired in 2004 but failed to do so, primarily because a large section of Congress is supported by money made from selling guns,” said Michels.

Many state governments have responded differently in combating this national issue.

“Connecticut has one of the most restrictive gun laws in the country and they’ve added some new ones. They’re at the forefront of restricting access to guns and making it more difficult for people to get them, requiring more training, better storage of weapons and increasing penalties,” said Shea.

According to AP News, Biden has promoted the benefit of red-flag laws especially for law enforcement. The laws are designed to remove guns temporarily from people who exhibit violent behavior in order to prevent them from hurting themselves or others.

Shea said that the state of Connecticut has red flag laws that enable law enforcement, if they observe that an individual is a threat to themselves or others, to apply for a risk protection order. If the individual attempts to apply or purchase another weapon, they could be denied due to the utilization of a database that collects information, however these laws do not exist on a national level.

There have been investments made and bills proposed to improve school safety. According to AP News, the bills being proposed enhance the requirements of schools nationwide to install advanced technology such as video surveillance and panic buttons.

Sophomore Caroline Miller said her feelings of fear immediately reactivate when she hears of another school shooting.

“If I had a child right now, I would be really scared to send them to school. This has been an ongoing issue for years and years and years, and there has been no change, so I think that speaks for itself,” said Miller.

In another recent example, on April 10, police responded to a call of a shooter who was an employee at Old National Bank in Louisville. The suspect killed five people and eight victims were injured, according to ABC News.

“At what point do we say, ‘enough is enough’? We have to resolve this. It’s not about your gun ownership rights, that’s a separate issue,” said Shea. “It’s about understanding that certain people shouldn’t have access to weapons and people need help when they’re getting into those situations. These people want to harm themselves and others and that’s a problem.”

About the author

Staff Writer

Leave a Reply