TOE TO TOE: Should the U.S. tighten restrictions on firearms? YES

The debate around gun control in the U.S. has been going on for years, all talk with little to no action. On Feb. 14, the lives of 17 people were taken in Parkland, Florida which is 17 more lives and one more mass shooting than what should’ve happened.

This time has to be different.

This time, thoughts and condolences need to be followed through with action. This time, the same teenagers who witnessed a horrific event are the ones standing up for themselves and their peers, demanding that their government listen to what they have to say. This time, we have to end this vicious cycle of mass shootings followed by political debate, which only ends up fading within weeks and bringing us back to where we started.

Military-style and assault weapons do not belong in the hands of a regular citizen, let alone someone who isn’t old enough to legally drink. Federal law says that the minimum age for purchasing or consuming alcohol is 21 years old, and the same goes for marijuana.

Federal law requires that persons must be at least 18 years old to purchase a long gun (rifles and shotguns) from licensed dealers and 21 for a handgun.

According to the Small Arms Survey, a research project through the World Health Organization in Switzerland, the U.S. owns 35-50 percent of the world’s civilian-owned guns and we only have less than 5 percent of the world’s population. We also have the highest homicide-by-firearm rate among developed nations. Numerous studies have also linked firearms to suicides and accidental shootings. Although there might not be causation between these weapons and violence/crime, it would be ignorant to deny that there’s a strong correlation.

A 2015 study conducted by researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard University showed that firearm assaults were nearly seven times more common in states with the most guns in comparison to those with the least.

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The U.S. should look to other countries for example, such as the U.K., Australia and Japan, who have reacted to mass shootings and passed reasonable restrictions accordingly.

They’ve implemented a combination of strict regulations and requirements for possession, such as providing good reason, going through rigorous background checks (criminal, mental health) and safety training. It’s also required to renew licenses every few years.

These countries have not experienced the high frequency of mass shootings that we have.

This is not a situation where we fight fire with fire.

Others have said that perpetrators will still find another way to hurt others. While that is absolutely possible, it questions the purpose of laws and regulations. If we were to depend on the logic that “there’s no point, people will break the law anyway,” does that mean we shouldn’t have any laws at all? Should we not have speed limits or age requirements for alcohol and over-the-counter medications?

The answer is to limit access and decrease the likelihood of such crimes happening. This isn’t about whether restrictions will be perfect. This is about deterring gun violence.

The demand for gun control and tighter restrictions does not equate to a complete ban or even an infringement upon the second amendment. When the evidence and research shows an undeniable connection between the accessibility of firearms and violent crimes, who is anyone to say that military-style weapons are not part of the problem?

The second amendment is not some unlimited right that takes precedence over lives. There is nothing “well regulated” about the easy accessibility of firearms here and that has to be fixed. We, as a nation, have a responsibility to come together, which begins with open ears.

This time will be different.