The Control Question

**The views and opinions in this article do not reflect the official position of Her Campus or Stephen F. Austin State University.**

                                                                                                    Photo by Alexandra Pitman for Her Campus at SFA

Monday morning, most of the United States woke up to the news that a gunman had opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino into a crowd at a country music concert on the Las Vegas strip. At least 58 people were killed and around 500 were injured. It had been called the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, a record previously held by the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, which left 49 dead. Recovered from the shooter’s hotel room were 23 firearms, at least 12 of which were semi-automatic rifles modified with a device called a bump fire stock to make them fire like automatic weapons. Another 19 weapons were recovered from the shooter’s home.


Our nation stands out from other developed countries and not in a good way.


America has had an almost non-reaction to its mass shootings and at this point it is obvious that these tragedies will not cause people to give up their guns. The Sandy Hook Massacre in 2012 left twenty kindergarteners dead. Two bills were proposed in response, one of which would require background checks on most private party firearm sales and the other would ban assault weapons. Both were struck down. The Columbine High School Massacre in April 1999 left 13 dead and 21 injured and did little beyond reinstating the state background check and prohibiting adults from buying weapons for minors.


Most of the developed world has not responded in the same way. When 16 5 to 6-year-old children and their teacher were killed in March 1996 in Great Britain, there was a public call for the banning of private handgun ownership. Nine years before, after a man killed 16 people, semi-automatic weapons were banned along with pump-action weapons. They have had only one mass shooting since the bans were put into place.


When 35 people were killed in Port Arthur, Tasmania in April of 1996, the Australian Prime Minister introduced sweeping gun reform requiring licensing, registration and a “genuine reason” to own a firearm, such as hunting or sport targeting, as well as a gun buyback program. In the 20 years since the shooting Australia has not seen another mass shooting.


America has mostly just yelled across the table about what should or should not be done.


The second amendment, of course, is what the debate centers around. It reads “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed,” and the interpretation of that statement is different from person to person. The original intent was to allow the citizens of the country to fight back should the government become tyrannical, and many people view the gun control debate through this lens. Riley, a student on the SFA campus said, “You can’t take away guns. If the government oversteps itself we have to be able to defend ourselves.”


Mikayla, a student in Denton, said, “If you want a gun license you need to have an extensive background check, and if you do have a potentially dangerous mental illness, you need explicit permission from your doctor to be alright to get one. I also think there should be a limit to how many guns one person can own (no one person needs fifteen Rugers, for example), and that open carry laws should limit what you’re allowed to carry. I do believe that the second amendment is just as important as the others, but it’s also the most dangerous, and it’s time for it to be updated.”


Another SFA student, Aly, said, “I don’t think anyone wants to ban guns entirely, pretty sure they just want more CONTROL over how they are distributed.”


There are many different opinions to be had in this debate. There are people who argue for more guns, for no guns, and every option in between.


I don’t know what the answer is. Humans have been hurting each other ever since they discovered that they could. Removing one brand of weapon isn’t going to stop all violence. Something has to happen, though. We cannot idly sit by and wait for the next group of people to be slaughtered. I don’t want to wake up again to the news that 60 or 70 or 80 or more people are dead and we have another worst mass shooting. Something has to give.


The theory of a Social Contract is that citizens give up personal freedoms in exchange for civil rights that benefit the whole of society. For example, we give up some of our income so that we have roads everyone can drive on or schools everyone can learn in.


I wonder if we should ask ourselves where guns should be in that equation.