Opinion

The Right to Life Surpasses the Right to Bear Arms

Airman 1st Class Daniel Brosam | U.S. Air ForceWeapons similar to those stored at the Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana can be legally bought and sold by civilians.

Nicholas Dworet, Martin Duque, Jaime Guttenberg, Alyssa Alhadeff — these victims and 13 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida join the list of thousands of names lost to mass shootings in the United States, “land of the free and home of the brave.” But, how can a country that averages one school shooting every 2.5 days call itself the land of the free and unafraid?

With U.S. mass shootings totaling 1,600 since Sandy Hook in 2012, school shootings and these tragedies’ responses have become a norm. Vigils are held, hashtags trend and Facebook users debate over the Second Amendment. Politicians tweet their thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims while seeming to miss one crucial fact.

The right to own a semi-automatic rifle doesn’t surpass someone’s right to life.

President Donald Trump followed the now normal guidelines for responding to mass school shootings verbatim on Twitter, saying, “My prayers and condolences to the families of the victims of the terrible Florida shooting. No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school.” Trump discussed mental health care in his official response, which he proposed decreasing funding for in his 2019 budget proposal. The contradiction presents no solution to these repetitive mass shootings. The president said in his response, “We must also work together to create a culture in our country that embraces the dignity of life.” The sanctity of life should always be a country’s priority, yet the irony is our culture seems to be glorifying gun ownership more than human life.

A Fortune Magazine article emphasized the undeniable link between the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Republican party, writing, “In the 2016 election, the NRA spent $11,438,118 to support Donald Trump — and another $19,756,346 to oppose Hillary Clinton.” Trump, as evidenced by his speech, knows the importance of keeping his donors happy.

The Second Amendment addresses the right to bear arms, but guns resembling military assault weapons don’t need to be in the hands of civilians. An AR-15 rifle has been commonly used in mass shootings, including the ones that occurred in Aurora, Colorado; Santa Monica, California and San Bernardino, California; Orlando, Florida; Newton, Connecticut and now Parkland, Florida. The rifle is extremely similar to an M-16, the fully-automatic version of an AR-15 and a common military weapon. It isn’t critical that the average American should be able to access a weapon reflecting those used in combat, and yet, no number of lives lost to a bullet from this gun seems to lessen the necessity of owning the gun in general.  

With the Republican Party controlling the House and the Senate, the NRA’s close ties can’t go unnoticed. How many more lives will be taken before the government realizes its contribution to the thousands of lives lost?

The 32 people killed in the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 weren’t enough for change to happen. The 20 kindergarteners and first graders and six adults murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School weren’t enough. The 58 lives lost and around 500 injured in Las Vegas weren’t enough. What will it take?

As people, we tend to think of ourselves as invincible. Most sympathize rather than empathize, and the resulting danger is apathy. Apathy is partially to blame for passing no legislature to protect the lives of students. How can someone say gun control won’t work to people who fled for their lives as their classmates were shot by bullets?

A personal experience with tragedy shouldn’t be the required turning point for politicians to take action.

Many argue the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms, calls for no or little gun control — the framers of the Constitution made it our right. But let’s remember that when the Constitution was created, slavery was legal and women couldn’t vote. New amendments later reflected the changing times. For a country that prides itself on being the forerunner of the modern age, we are decades behind in protecting and caring for our citizens.

Likewise, freedoms have limits. If a supposed freedom contributes to the loss of lives, then restrictions on this right must be addressed. The next limit must be harsher regulations on purchasing guns — items that kill more children than cancer.

A duty of the government is to protect its people, yet the victims’ blood from mass shootings lies on the hands of politicians.

Intruder drills in schools, social media arguments and little legal action are hardly doing anything to save lives and prevent future instances from occurring. Stricter gun regulation is the least we can do to lessen mass shootings in the United States.  

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