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With the recent influx of tragedies caused by gun violence, things need to change. In Uvalde, Buffalo, and countless other places, guns acquired legally were used to take the lives of innocent people. Throughout our country, not enough is being done to limit and control gun ownership.
Americans own more than one gun per person on average, a rate that far outpaces any other nation on Earth.
On top of that, the United States experiences a far higher homicide rate than any other developed nation. With these unique factors, gun control measures become absolutely critical.
The Second Amendment is important and should be respected, but it still allows for limitations to be placed on the types of guns allowed to be owned and on the difficulty of attaining said guns. From 1994 until 2004, certain types of assault weapons were banned on a federal level, and the law received bipartisan support. But while there is precedent, it is unlikely that any large-scale ban on assault weapons will be passed in today’s climate.
Looking to other countries, such as Britain and Australia, and how they dealt with gun control policy after mass shootings in their countries makes it plain to see what that strict gun control policy works. These two countries had different solutions: Britain enforced strict firearm bans down to the smallest caliber handgun, while Australia enacted nationwide buybacks that took a third of privately held guns out of circulation, guns that were outlawed to new regulations. Australia also worked to reframe the ‘right’ of gun ownership to that of a privilege. Although the reforms in Australia were originally controversial, gun-related homicides halved in the proceeding years, and non-firearm homicides and suicides did not increase.
While most of these methods would not be feasible in the United States, there are still many other ways to limit the ease with which one can legally buy a firearm. The first is federally enforced background checks. Enforcing these checks would close a legal loophole to acquiring guns through transactions between private parties, and is a restriction that more than 90% of Americans approve of.
But background checks will not be enough on their own. It needs to be coupled with a waiting period and firearm purchaser licensing. A longer waiting period allows for the background checks to be completed thoroughly; it was the failure of a rushed background check that allowed for the Charleston shooting to occur in the first place.
Licensing laws typically require an in-person application and fingerprinting to attain a license to purchase a gun. This increases accountability and goes hand in hand with background checks. Connecticut passed a law of this type in 1995, which saw a 28% reduction in firearm homicides and a 33% drop in firearm suicides.
In Uvalde in particular, the gunman bought the rifles used just two days after his 18th birthday, and utilized a payment plan on top of that. Stricter gun laws, whether it be licensing laws, longer wait times, raising the age to legally buy guns, or any combination of the above would likely have delayed or entirely avoided the disaster that followed.
In short, we need to change how we look at gun control policy. With the current state of polarization in politics, banning assault weapons outright is all but impossible. Instead, we must make the legal pipeline to acquiring weapons much stricter, and close any loopholes we can. Only then can we make America safer for everyone.