Editorial: We need to refocus the gun control debate

4 mins read

After the February 14 shooting in Parkland, Florida, the president, among many others, expressed a knee-jerk reaction to come up with immediate solutions, some more harmful than helpful. As of today, there have been 28 school shootings in 2018, with the number rising each week. The debate over possible solutions has been divisive. Those who support increased gun control feel they need to shout their opinions louder to make others understand that we should ban assault rifles, but 66 percent of Americans already support stricter gun laws. Recent proposals to arm teachers and focus on mental health distract from the real goal of enacting stricter gun control laws.

On Thursday, President Donald Trump introduced the idea of arming teachers via Twitter.

Trump’s recent statements contradict his 2016 tweet about guns in classrooms.

Trump’s views are more confusing than ever, as he gave a meeting on February 28 with lawmakers proposing stronger background checks, age requirements, banning the use of bump stocks, and temporarily seizing guns from people at risk without due process, much to his fellow Republican politicians’ chagrin. He also accused other politicians of submitting to the National Rifle Association’s power.

He then backtracked the next day. After a meeting with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, an NRA lobbyist posted a satisfied tweet.

In a survey of 70 percent of M-A teachers, only seven percent considered themselves “very gun adept.”

In the same survey, four percent of M-A teachers stated that they felt comfortable with guns being present in classrooms. Even if M-A, and schools like it across the country, had the resources and willingness to train their teachers, having guns present in classrooms would inevitably lead to increased gun violence in schools. Case in point: On February 28, a Georgia teacher was arrested for firing his handgun out a window of the high school at which he taught.

Teachers are not automatically less violent, more rational, or more qualified to carry firearms. The process of arming teachers also carries the implication of a duty or obligation for teachers to defend their students in the event of an armed campus assault. Although it is heroic that some teachers have sacrificed their lives for their students, it should not be a moral requirement for teachers to endanger their lives and potentially shoot a student when there are better solutions.

After every mass shooting in the U.S., most right-wing politicians bring up mental health as a way to divert attention from gun control. In light of recent events, Trump talked about reopening mental institutions, which were closed down in the 1970s and 1980s due to widespread systemic abuse. Comprehensive conversations about mental health that do not revolve around villainizing and locking up mentally ill people, the majority of whom are not violent, is much needed, but should not be the focus of politicians when discussing gun control.

A Harvard University paper stated, “Most individuals with psychiatric disorders are not violent… findings have been inconsistent about how much mental illness contributes to this behavior and how much substance abuse and other factors do.”

As for mental health in California, the law has protections in place to keep citizens safe. If a person is placed on a 5150 hold, which means that they are considered a danger to themselves or others, they are involuntarily put in a psychiatric facility and lose the right to own a firearm in California for five years. This law came after a 1989 mass shooting at Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton.

It is too easy to blame mental illness for school shootings, as Trump has made it the main focus of the recent shooting in Florida. A National Public Radio segment from February 23 explained how there is little connection between mental health and mass shootings and the dangers of focusing the conversation on mental health. It is worth listening to the segment below:

Ultimately, placing blame on the mentally ill distracts from far more productive solutions.

California gun law states that to sell, deliver, loan, or transfer any firearm, a person is required to have a five-year Firearm Safety Certificate, submit applicant data to the state, and pass a written test proctored by a Department of Justice Certified Instructor.

Additionally, semi-automatic firearms classified by the state as assault weapons and magazines that can hold more than ten rounds of ammunition are not permitted to be sold in California.

California has one of the lowest firearm death rates in the country, strongly suggesting that increased gun control has a positive effect on reducing gun violence. Congress should pass similar legislation across the country to prevent unnecessary loss of life.

We are calling on our lawmakers and representatives to stop allowing the NRA to buy control over their political agendas and promote the interests of their constituencies. The way to end school shootings is not to put more guns in schools; it is to remove all guns from educational environments, as students should not have to fear for their lives while trying to focus on learning.

In addition, for those M-A students who would like to take political action, there will be student-led events taking place every day next week. Events include a letter-writing campaign at lunch on Monday, a rally on the field in which students will spell out “no guns” with their bodies at lunch on Tuesday, an M-A Today memorial of the lives lost in Parkland at 10 a.m. and walkout immediately following on Wednesday, student voter registration in B-21 at lunch on Thursday, and altars for the lives lost in Parkland on the green at lunch on Friday.

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The Editorial Board is made up of Editors-in-Chief Sonia Freedman, Natalie Fishman, Sarah Weintraut, Cleo Rehkopf, and Dylan Lanier. It represents the general consensus of the staff.

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