2018: Worst Year on Record for Mass Shootings

Cole Garber, Staff Writer

On June 10, 2014, Jared Michael Padgett brought an AR-15 to Reynolds High School and killed a freshman. It seems clear that there must have been something mentally unwell with Padgett, but that was not the case. Padgett, like the majority of shooters, was not mentally ill. This completely clashes with the perception of shooters having some recognizable reason, and shows how little is actually understood about these events and what can be done to solve them.

For many, this topic is very difficult to discuss, either because of its sensitivity or out of fear of potential backlash on controversial views. Whether you hate the opposition or feel a strong neutrality to the subject, hearing other perspectives is vital preventing another shooting – like the one at Reynolds – from happening again.

The definition for a mass shooting is accepted by most as four or more shot and killed within a 24 hour period by a shooter. A very simplistic view on the issue of mass shootings is the binary situation on gun control: you either think it will help or you don’t. Those who believe in gun control tend to feel that increasing gun control will lead to fewer mass shootings (as well as lower gun-related deaths.). In contrast to this are those that do not believe gun control will help the situation, feeling that there are reasons other than gun access that leads to mass shootings. Both sides have reasonable arguments that are worth hearing and want the shootings to stop, they just see a different solution to doing so.

One point of view is that less access to guns will lead to less harmful shootings. There are guns that are not necessary for people to possess, and some believe banning all guns will end all shootings. Tighter regulations on guns is an opinion shared by many at this school.

An anonymous senior said, “I just feel like if we can implement gun control and more checks and stuff on people too, like really find out their criminal history and all sorts of things like that just to see if they’re in a decent enough mental state to own something that can kill people instantly.”

Many agree with most of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993, which requires those licensed to sell firearms by the Federal Government to use background checks before allowing someone to purchase a firearm. Though private transactions are exempt from requiring background checks. “I think that stronger background checks and more regulations about owning guns in your home [will help reduce the number of shootings],” an anonymous senior said.

Taking many or even some guns away from a possible shooter or mentally ill person could dissuade them from following through with their plans. However, a criticism of this is that shooters will simply gain the use of other firearms or access to illegal versions of the banned weapons.

Some people believe in regulating assault weapons specifically. The idea that you do not need certain weapons, such as an AR-15 to either defend your house nor use it for activities such as hunting, is key to this argument.        The power in these types of guns is more than what is needed for any of these activities. However, the shooting at Virginia Tech was done with two semi-automatic handguns and remains the deadliest school shooting in US history resulting in 17 injured and 32 dead. This demonstrates that you do not need a large weapon to cause destruction, you can use something as small as a handgun.

Many gun control advocates, also tote the idea of complete eradication of firearms in the USA. Their idea being,  if there are no guns, there are no shootings. There are examples of nations following this and thus having minimal shootings and decreased gun-related deaths. England, for instance, has 50-60 gun homicides annually, whereas the United States has 8,124. England banned practically all handguns in 1997 as well as making citizens get certificates and licenses to possess a firearm. But for the United States, eradicating  393 million citizen-owned firearms (compared to England’s 1,700,000 in 1996.) may be far too difficult to pull off. Also, gun owners have implied that they would fight back against such a law, with their firearms.

But also on the other side, there are different views.

People who believe in the right to bear arms like to cite the second amendment as the basis of their argument. The second amendment states “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The founding fathers intended for every weapon to be available to its citizens,  including cannons and Gatling guns (an early design for a fully automatic weapon, similar to what we now know as a minigun). However, the constitution was created hundreds of years ago and many believe that it does not represent our current society.  The constitution has been amended in the past and could be amended now to represent our current situation because the founding fathers could not have predicted the future weapons citizens would be able to access.

Mental health is another part of the mass shooting and gun control debate.   “I think that the real solution would be working towards bettering mental health and emotions for people in schools,” said senior and ASB president Evan Olson.

Many believe we should not focus on the object but blame the individual for the event. An object on its own cannot do harm unless the individual uses it for malicious intent. It would seem that there has to be mental health issues at play when someone attempts a mass shooting. However, in a study from the FBI released in June of 2018, they found that only 25% of mass shooters “…had been diagnosed by a health professional with a mental illness ‘of any kind’ prior to an attack.”

An anonymous senior believed that more screenings at schools, increased education on mental illness, and more support provided to those that have mental illness will lead to fewer mass shootings and school shootings.

The news and social media are also often blamed for the continuation of mass shootings by glorifying their crimes. The news shows not just the shooter’s name and face, but also the number of deaths and injuries. A 2015 study by the Public Library Of Science (PLOS One) found that news reports on school shootings and mass shootings leads to a temporary increase in the likelihood of another shooting. To resolve this problem one would have to censor the press and freedom of speech, which is another issue as that would also be infringing upon rights guaranteed to us by our forefathers.

The issue of mass shootings is more complex than many may make it out to be. There are many factors that could contribute to a mass shooting and the solution may be a combination of several ideas. However, in order to address this issue clearly, many in our country need to have a more open mind and heart. There are flaws in every argument, and that means that discourse is the only real way to solve the problem.