Opinion: America has a solvable gun problem

Posted on Apr 17 2017 - 7:59am by Daniel Payne

Last Monday, San Bernardino, California, suffered its second mass shooting in three years.

While no one should use the death of a student, teacher and gunman for political gain, we should all consider how to make America a safer place by preventing similar tragedies.

The truth is: America has a gun problem.

Although it’s difficult to know the exact number of guns in the United States, there would have been roughly 357 million firearms in the country in 2013, according to an estimate done by the Washington Post in 2015. This would have been 40 million more guns than people at the time.

It’s no surprise, then, that the U.S. has a horrifying record of mass shootings; there have been 130 just this year, far more than other developed nations. This statistic has remained unchanged for years.

History isn’t the only discipline suggesting guns don’t help make a society safer.

Science tells us that firearms can have violent effects on communities. A Boston University study found that when the number of firearms increases by 10 percent in a state, homicides increase by 7.3 percent. The New England Journal of Medicine found that having a firearm in a house “was strongly and independently associated with an increased risk of homicide.”

It’s not only homicides that are affected by gun accessibility. Suicides declined in Australia when firearms were more difficult to obtain.

Mississippi, with a gun ownership rate of 55 percent, is especially susceptible to these risks. The Mississippi legislature has worked to make guns more accessible in recent years, too; we aren’t moving in the right direction.

Of all demographics in the United States, these stats should especially concern Ole Miss students. Schools are often victims of mass shootings, and students at a school in a state with so many risk factors should be especially concerned about the risks that surround it.

Fortunately, there are solutions to these problems.

Australia, after suffering from extensive gun violence, enacted a massive tightening of gun regulations, including licensing requirements, import quotas and massive buybacks of firearms.

There have been no mass shootings in Australia since this reform in 1996.

Twenty years without a mass shooting is proof that gun control works.

Knowing the risks and the effectiveness of solutions, it’s time to act.

The way we do that is by voting. Many myths about guns and their relation to violence come from the National Rifle Association and the politicians it lobbies. When deciding whom to vote for, consider the money politicians may have received from the NRA or the stances they have taken on gun laws in the past.

Though elections are rare, we can still contact our representatives about issues that concern us, like this one.

Even dispelling myths when they arise in conversations is effective in helping move the state and nation toward common sense laws about guns.

While these actions may seem insignificant or unimportant, the lives that are taken by gun violence aren’t. Science and history have spoken: Gun control saves lives.

We should care about those lives more than our right to own deadly weapons.

Daniel Payne is a freshman integrated marketing communications major from Collierville, Tennessee.