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The recent massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School has left people searching for answers, and the fear of “what if” now gnaws at the back of every parent’s mind as they send their children to school — a supposed safe haven where our most innocent and vulnerable citizens, our youth, are supposed to go to learn, not fear for their safety. Since the Sandy Hook incident, the media has been ablaze with headlines about stronger gun regulations, as well as those endorsing armed teachers and incorporating bullet proof armor into school dress codes. The decisions that face the United States of America with regard to gun related crime aren’t easy, but they’ve been ignored for far too long. If you feel confused and frustrated by the debate, and aren’t sure which solutions are best for your kids, you’re not alone. Here we outline startling facts and statistics about guns in this country, and we offer ways for you to get involved in changing the antiquated laws that no longer serve our nation or its inhabitants.
Facts to consider:
1. The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states, “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.” This Amendment was created when the U.S. was still afraid of British invasion. It was penned when guns still took almost 30 seconds to load, aim, and shoot a single bullet. Semi-automatic and automatic firearms, which can fire hundreds of rounds without stopping, were not even imagined yet. Also, millions of self-interested, gun-toting Americans does not qualify as a well-regulated militia, which is defined as a supplement for the regular army. Interestingly, the The National Rifle Association omitted the militia clause when engraving the Second Amendment on its headquarters building in Washington.
2. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that a total of 3,042 children and teens died by gunfire in 2007—a number nearly equal to the total number of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq and four times the number of American combat fatalities in Afghanistan to date. Another 17,523 children and teens suffered non-fatal gun injuries in 2007 and the emotional aftermath that follows. In each case it was a gun that ended or changed a young life forever.
3. Since Sandy Hook, some politicians and gun advocates have said that we should start arming our teachers. They feel the answer to senseless gun crime is to put weapons in the hands of more people, not fewer. However, statistics show that armed civilians rarely fire shots when confronted with an armed criminal, and when they do, the results are often disastrous. In fact, the law enforcement community is soundly against the idea that citizens should try to “take the law into their hands”. For more, check out this Mother Jones investigation of five shootings where armed civilians were present.
4. The U.S., with 4.5 percent of the world population, accounts for about 40 percent of the planet’s civilian firearms. Despite this lopsided representation, we are one of only two countries in the world that allows unlicensed civilians to own unregistered firearms. “You are basically the only country in the developed world that doesn’t license gun owners across the board and you are almost alone in not registering guns across the board,” said Philip Alpers, a firearms analyst at The University of Sydney and publisher of GunPolicy.org. “It’s very difficult to compare [the U.S.] with others, because you simply don’t have those things.” Current federal law requires criminal background checks only for guns sold through licensed firearm dealers, which account for just 60% of all gun sales in the United States. This exception, known as the “Gunshow Loophole“, allows individuals not “engaged in the business” of selling firearms to sell guns without a license—and without processing any paperwork. That means that two out of every five guns sold in the United States change hands without a background check.
How to Take Action
It can be hard to find the blessing among all the sorrow that has gripped the nation. If there is a silver lining to this tragedy, however, it may be the fact that for the first time in decades the American people are demanding common sense gun laws. This doesn’t mean rounding up all the existing guns or banning civilians from owning guns. For many, it just doesn’t make sense that it’s harder to get a driver’s license and register a car than it is to obtain a lethal weapon. Proper education, training, and regulation are necessary to keep guns out of the hands of children, criminals, and the mentally ill. If you’re ready to join the conversation, here are some ways to take action on behalf of your children and grandchildren.
In the hours following the Sandy Hook shooting, hundreds of thousands of Americans signed a petition demanding immediate action on gun control laws. President Obama issued an official response to that petition which can be viewed here. Other petitions to sign:
Demand A Plan To End Gun Violence Now! -Sponsored by Mayors Against Illegal Guns
Reinstate the Federal Assault Weapons Ban -SignOn.org
If you live in the Washington D.C. area, you may also want to consider joining the Million Kids March. Started by an entrepreneur and father of two, this effort wants to see one million kids (and their parents) march on the Washington Mall to inspire the creation of sensible gun policies in America.