Portelli: Recent tragedies call for gun control

The ongoing argument on whether to pass stricter gun laws has been met with political opposition from both gun control supporters and gun rights enthusiasts. Since the December Sandy Hook tragedy in Connecticut, gun reform has proven to be a highly divisive, yet critical issue for Americans.

President Barack Obama’s attempt to pass gun control legislation has led to great outcry from Republicans who promote the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. Obama’s proposed plan includes “universal background checks for all gun buyers, a crackdown on gun trafficking, a ban on military-style assault weapons and a ban on ammunition magazines holding more than 10 bullets.” Organizations like the National Rifle Association believe that this plan would infringe on the rights of Americans who own guns for protection. 

NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre has said, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” 

LaPierre is one of the many gun rights supporters who believe that the only way to decrease gun violence in America is to increase the number of armed security guards. Although gun rights advocates argue that a gun in the right hands can prevent shootings, statistics show that they are incorrect. 

There are an estimated 300 million guns in America. According to Gun Policy, in 2009 alone 10,224 Americans died in gun-related homicides. In European countries like the United Kingdom with an estimated 3.4 million guns, the number of deaths resulting from firearms in 2009 was only 18.

Americans must follow in the UK’s footsteps in regards to gun control legislation. The Dunblane school massacre in 1996, similar to the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, saw 16 children and one adult killed and led to a public uproar for stricter gun laws. What resulted was the passing of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 by parliament, which banned the possession of all handguns by civilians other than those that used a .22 cartridge, and the Firearms (Amendment) (No. 2) Act of 1997, which banned the ownership of private handguns regardless of caliber. 

Legislative action to control guns is absolutely necessary in order for gun violence to decrease in America. Gun rights advocates believe that guns are not the reason for tragedies like the Sandy Hook massacre, the Aurora shooting and the Virginia Tech massacre. According to them, the mentally ill young men who carried out the shootings are to blame. 

North Carolina Rep. Virginia Foxx stated, “There are just evil people in the world. There’s nothing you can do to prevent evil from occurring.” 

But that does not mean that we have to wait around for the next shooting to happen. Americans can do a lot to prevent evil from occurring, especially when the problem stems from firearms. 

We can adopt the practices of other countries that have extremely low death by gun rates. Japan, for example, requires thorough background checks for gun purchasers. In Norway, gun owners have to pass a written exam and in Canada guns are viewed as a privilege rather than a right. 

Gun violence is not just restricted to America. The only difference between America and other countries is that steps were taken to limit gun ownership, not increase it.