Roberts: School shootings raise need for “common sense” legislature

Nick Roberts, Staff Member

As of March 21, it will have been 1,923 days since the Sandy Hook shooting, the shooting where 20 first graders and six staff members were killed at an elementary school. In those 1,923 days since the shooting, 438 people have been shot inside of a school, of which 138 died. As a point of reference, only four people have died via a shooting at any school in Europe, which has nearly the double population of the United States. I’m sure that all of you have heard about the deadly shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, the shooting which took 17 innocent lives this Valentine’s Day. The said shooting fit all the descriptions for ways we should aim for reform: the shooter used an assault weapon, was extremely young and had mental health issues which, when reported to authorities, should have prevented him from buying said weapon.
While we have to hope for change, it can be hard to envision that change is coming. There have been shootings with a higher death toll. There have also been shootings with more innocence lost. So why should the Parkland shooting be the shooting to truly create meaningful change in this country? Well, there is no better time than now to get change. We have tried letting the status quo play out. Nothing has improved. While no solution is perfect, we have to try something to prevent this crisis in our country.
Sadly, Congressional action seems to be something that is rare. This is especially true when it relates to guns. As Hoosiers, we do not have to look far to see this in action. One of our senators, Todd Young, has taken over three million dollars from the National Rifle Association, a gun-rights lobbying group who have continuously advocated against common sense measures. Because of this, Young has rewarded the group with statements against universal background checks and votes against other common sense restrictions. Young is not unique in this regard. There are dozens and dozens of senators who are beholden to the NRA, having received millions and millions of dollars each to keep quiet about these reforms and vote against any measures that come up. As an aside, I recommend that everyone looks at how much their elected representatives receive in donations from lobbyists. Every single Congressional Republican from Indiana has accumulated thousands and thousands of dollars from the NRA, and it’s important to know that.
The kind of reforms I’ve seen being proposed are not radical. They are not trying to take away our second amendment rights. They are fairly simple to ensure that guns are not in the hands of the mentally ill or the violent. For example, somebody on the no-fly list could easily buy an assault rifle and commit a shooting. Why would we let somebody who we don’t even trust enough on an airplane to have the ability to buy a firearm which can kill dozens of people quickly and easily? Although people will find ways to commit harm anyways, we are letting them possess these guns, which makes it a lot easier to do the harm in the first place. And yes, I get that some would find ways to own the weapons illegally. But the amount of barriers they’d have to pass would disincentivize most, and if we catch them owning the illegal weapons there could be harsh punishments.
One note that opponents of these proposals bring up is that the 2nd Amendment is a right, which is obviously true. Again, this is not a call to abolish the 2nd Amendment or anything similar, but just for common sense reforms. Regardless, almost all amendments have been amended. For example, you cannot just say “fire” in a movie theatre or slander someone’s name deceptively. So while we do have the 2nd Amendment, it hasn’t stopped reforms to come into place that are needed.
Sadly, these things are not mentioned frequently. There is a vast and widespread misinformation campaign, spearheaded by the NRA and like-minded “gun rights” groups, that associate these reforms with wanting to abolish the 2nd Amendment or take the firearms from peaceful and law-abiding citizens. If anyone reading this has not seen one of them, watch one of the NRA’s promotional videos and see the genuine fear that the group is trying to instill. The advertisements are not truthful and rely on dishonesty to push their narrative. Because of the NRA’s widespread network, through their members and elected representatives, lots of people buy the narrative hook, line and sinker.
We cannot wait anymore. The people representing us in Congress have taken no action and have proven to be insufficient in representing the people’s voice. According to a Quinnipiac Poll, which surveyed 1,249 registered voters across the country, over 80 percent of respondents who were asked supported a ban on assault weapons, yet Congress has simply not represented the consensus on the issue at all. In addition, according to every single public policy poll on the issue, over 90 percent of Americans support universal background checks. This is even a majority for the NRA’s own members, despite the fact that the group has spent millions advocating against background checks.
Hence, we are at a crossroads. We can either accept the status quo on the issue or vote for people who champion what we believe. If we do not act now, we may never get another chance for such impactful reform. I am calling on everyone reading this to not forget about the innocent lives lost in Parkland, FL and to take action on this. Although not everyone reading this will be 18 by the 2018 elections, everyone will be old enough to vote someday. We need to vote for candidates who will actively push for common-sense gun regulations such as universal background checks, assault weapon bans and gun licenses. And if you cannot vote, there are other ways to make your voice heard. Volunteer for a candidate who is running on a platform you like. Go to a protest. Write a letter to your representative. We live in a Democracy which encourages civic engagement. The groups advocating against all of this are extremely well-organized and calculating. If we want to win, we must out-work them and encourage our representatives to champion our issues.
Let’s be clear, though, there are no overarching answers to this problem. The gun control debate is extremely nuanced and even if, say, we ban assault weapons, that won’t change the issue overnight. There are many facets of the issue that cannot remain overlooked and are extremely outdated. While we have a long way to go if we continue to advocate for common sense reforms and push politicians to follow the way, we will find that change will come soon.



Graphic: Sam Kpedi