Gun Control Question Looms Large in Wake of Oregon Shooting


Shannon Sutherland '19, Writer

On October 1st, President Obama gave a speech on mass shootings and the need for legislative gun control in the wake of the horrific school shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. Unfortunately, a common theme among many of America’s mass shootings is that many have occurred at places where the most innocent people in our populace are to be found: schools. Almost 300 lives have been lost in school shootings, highlighting the looming question of whether America should tighten gun restrictions.

Stemming from a history of school violence, such as the notorious Columbine school shooting where two students at a Colorado high school killed 13 individuals, America has become increasingly ridden with mass shootings. Reignited by the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut, and now the Umpqua Community College shooting in Oregon, the gun control debate has once again been brought to the public’s attention and was a topic of discussion in the Democratic Presidential Debate on October 13, 2015.

There are many proposed solutions to these massacres, but first one must analyze why school shootings are so tragically common and seemingly easy to perform. One major hole in the American system is mental health care. States cut over 5 billion dollars in mental health services between 2009 and 2012 according to USA Today, leaving the approximate 10 million Americans with serious mental health illnesses strained. Statistics show that the majority of those 10 million are homeless, in prison, or have committed suicide. In addition, reports suggest that around 60% of perpetrators of mass shootings in the United States demonstrated symptoms of severe mental health issues.

​There are certain things that can be restricted in order to make it more difficult to actually use a firearm, rather than simply ban their sales. For example, in Switzerland, it is not necessarily the gun that has restricted access; instead, there are tight ammunition sales laws. In America, we have the Second Amendment of the Constitution to heed when making rules regarding guns and their distribution. The Amendment reads, “… being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” If one is considering those words from the view of a loose-constructionist, there is nothing specifically prohibiting limitation and restricted distribution of ammunition.

​Typically what first comes to mind when considering solutions to mass shootings, is tightening gun laws in general. ***For example, my own uncle, a Virginia government official, only needs his Driver’s License to purchase a gun. There are, however, a number of complications when going about making changes in the existing system for regulating and purchasing firearms; one being the Second Amendment and the National Rifle Association (NRA). The NRA lobbies against any bill sent to Congress proposing stricter gun laws. The NRA also funds many politicians, and can threaten that funding in order to get the desired effect. Yet there are also many Americans who do not support the idea of gun control, despite the horrific effect loose laws have had, or believe it should be up to individual states.
​Despite these rather pressing obstacles, there are propositions for a more effective and selective process when it comes to obtaining a firearm. One potential way to tighten the system is to have a required federal background check. Also, there are no federal health requirements or training needed to buy a firearm (In some states, there are some requirements, but no gun tracking). That means that if one wanted to obtain a firearm, but for some reason could not meet the required state’s standards to purchase one themselves, they could have someone else go in and buy it for them. This is called the Strawman Loophole. One buys the gun secondhand or illegally from an unauthorized distributor. If tracking regulations were to be put in place and enforced, these loopholes could be eliminated, further reducing the chance of someone unfit getting their hands on a gun.

As school students and future leaders, individuals should learn about America’s laws and regulations, and the controversies surrounding them. As citizens of the nation, we are obligated to become educated and establish our personal opinions on such issues of controversy based on our morals, so when the time comes for us to contribute, by voting or being involved with politics, we can make informed decisions. With topics like school shootings, lawmakers must analyze tragedies that often involve people still in school, much like us at Marin Catholic. By learning about these occurrences we are not only educating ourselves but also honoring our peers who have been taken. We must be the catalysts for change for safety to prevent future mass shootings.