by Daisy Jasmine, Staff Writer
The past few weeks in the United States have been deeply troubling. On Feb. 14, yet another school shooting devastated the lives of unsuspecting children, turning their classrooms into a battlefield as over a dozen students and staff members were murdered in a place that is supposed to be safe for students and staff. The nation is horrified, and social media is ablaze with the debates that tend to arise with every gun-related tragedy—but this time the outcry has had a new voice making itself heard, as the children themselves are pushing for not just “thoughts and prayers” from government leaders and lawmakers, but legislative action to keep them and everyone in the country safe by putting an end to these far-too-common tragedies.
To many, it would seem obvious that the idea of protecting the children of the United States from would-be mass murderers would be something everyone could agree on. However, as the survivors of the Parkland shooting have gained the attention of news outlets with their activism and had their message spread to the world via the platform of the Internet, they have been met with a disquieting amount of resistance from members of the National Rifle Association, as well as members of the current administration seeking to discredit the teenagers leading the way.
As stated in The Independent, the most vocal of the protesting students have been harassed and accused of being “crisis actors” paid to politicize the tragedy, as though the issue was not inherently political to begin with. The president’s response was to suggest that all teachers be armed—a highly problematic “solution” in and of itself. So afraid are U.S. gun-owners of having their weapons taken away, that any assertion that we should ban the unnecessarily deadly assault rifles and put stronger regulations in place on other guns is met with fury. To supporters of gun control, it may feel as though a safer system will never be in reach.
However, in light of these disheartening events, it is vital that we show our support of the survivors rising up as activists and commit to pushing for change, rather than absolving ourselves of responsibility by declaring it impossible. A global perspective can give us the hope we need now that effective gun control can be, and has been, effectively implemented. By being aware of the statistics and observing the success other countries have seen in putting an end to mass shootings, we can let their successes be examples for the United States to follow. Some of the nations which have achieved successful gun control systems include the following:
In 1996, less than two weeks after a mass shooting in Port Arthur which killed 35 and wounded 18, Australian lawmakers were quick to act in setting regulations in place and banning assault weapons such as the AK-15 used in the massacre. This legislative action—which included a mandatory buyback—was reached with little opposition due to the attack being the 13th mass shooting in the preceding eighteen years, according to Simon Chapman, a major advocate of the policy reform, in his summary of the decision on The Conversation. Following the introduction of the new policy, Australia immediately saw a remarkable change. In the 22 years since, the country has not had a single mass shooting. Additionally, Australia’s gun violence in general has declined rapidly, with a murder rate one-fifth that of the United States’ as of 2014, according to Fortune. Suicide rates also dropped significantly following the legislative action, as stated in Vox.
Japan has also had tremendous success preventing the rise of gun violence, being the first country in the world to implement gun restrictions. In this country, firearms are extremely tightly regulated, and those who wish to own one must attend a class and pass a rigorous written and practical test every three years, as well as many other requirements which limit the amount of ammunition can be owned and prevent the inheritance of firearms. Japan’s culture and policies are so deterrent to gun use that even law enforcement officers rarely use firearms and are prohibited from carrying a gun when off-duty. As a result of these policies, Japan rarely sees more than 10 gun-related deaths a year despite its large population, according to Business Insider.
Great Britain carried out its gun control policies incrementally. According to The Guardian, the first regulations on shotguns and the banning of semi-automatic weapons were put into place soon after a shooting which killed 16 people in the town of Hungerford in 1987. Nine years later, a mass shooting in a classroom of very young children and their teacher in Dunblane led to the additional banning of handguns within the year. The passing of these regulations despite some disagreement from those whose hobbies required handguns demonstrates just how feasible it is for gun regulations to be put in place even if met with opposition from obstinate gun-owners.
The degree to which it seems the National Rifle Association has control over the United States’ current lawmakers is discouraging. However, it is vital that we do not fall prey to the easy excuse that we are somehow incapable of making a change—because a change must come. As Generation Z shows their bravery and begins to fight for their right to live, led by the survivors of the Parkland shooting, it is our job as adults and voters to make sure their activism is not ignored by the administration. The US has the chance now to follow in the footsteps of the countries which have succeeded in protecting their most vulnerable citizens. It is our responsibility to do the difficult thing and demand a safer country for all. There’s ample proof that it can work. All we have to do is not give up.