In 2012, Sandy Hook Elementary became the site of a mass shooting that resulted in the deaths of 26 people, the majority of whom were elementary school students. In 2018, a shooter murdered 17 people and injured an additional 17 others at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In 2022, 21 people were killed at the hands of a shooter at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, while police “failed to prioritize saving the lives of innocent victims over their own safety,” according to an investigative report from the Texas House of Representatives. Just last week, four people were killed in a shooting during a Sweet 16 birthday party in Alabama.
Despite the epidemic of mass shootings, there hasn’t been much done to fix the epidemic of mass shootings plaguing the country. A large amount of responses to these tragedies is the sending of “thoughts and prayers,” a phrase that essentially translates to inaction. There is only so much thinking and praying that can be done before people begin to wonder when something will actually be done.
Last year, there were 647 mass shootings in the U.S, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which defines a “mass shooting” as a shooting in which four or more people are shot or murdered. This is nearly 300 more mass shootings than the number that occurred just five years prior in 2017, which was 348. Mass shootings are happening more frequently, causing more unnecessary and preventable deaths.
At least part of the reason for this high number is attributable to easy gun access. According to research published by the National Institute of Justice, 77% of those who committed a mass shooting acquired at least some of their guns through legal means, while 80% of those involved in K-12 shootings acquired guns from family members. There are no federal laws that require the safe storage of guns, an oversight that can cause accidents and provide gun access to those who intend to hurt themselves or others.
The obvious answer here is gun control, which can be achieved through various means, such as stronger background checks, regulations on the types of firearms available for purchase and requirements for the safe storage of guns. But just as The United States has a problem with gun access, it also has a problem with its attitude toward guns. The U.S. associates guns with freedom, with a misplaced nostalgia for the country’s origins, a time when musket-wielding Founding Fathers proclaimed a right to bear arms. Too many Americans want to be a hero. They tout a “guns don’t kill people, people do” ideology and carry guns into public spaces “just in case,” envisioning themselves as a knight in shining armor during an active shooter situation.
Here’s the reality: people kill people using guns, and when Americans advocate for fewer restrictions, they exacerbate that problem. What America needs is expanded gun control, but Congress has a history of inaction regarding much-needed gun control legislation. In fact, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act passed in 2022 was the first piece of federal gun control legislation that Congress passed in almost 30 years, according to the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement. Gun violence kills, harms and traumatizes Americans, but little is done to remedy the problem.
There are plenty of gun owners out there who are responsible because they store their gun safely and would never use their firearms for an act of violence. But, there are plenty more who are careless, or even malicious, and whose easy access to guns creates the potential for tragedy. The U.S. doesn’t need thoughts and prayers, it needs effective legislation. As more shootings occur, it becomes increasingly evident that America needs gun control now more than ever.
Lillian Barry is a sophomore studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to share your thoughts? Let Lillian know by tweeting her at @lillianbarry_.