Mass shootings have become a common thing in America. Data compiled by the Gun Violence Archive reveals that there is a mass shooting–defined as four or more people shot in one incident, not including the shooter–every nine out of 10 days.
The Stampede wanted to know how Milligan students felt, so we asked students about the shootings, how they felt about mass shootings and how they felt about gun laws in America.
Overall, five Milligan students–two Democrat, two Republican and one Independent–all had a similar and pretty moderate view on these events and how they should be handled. There was an agreement that guns should not all be taken away but that America does need to step up its game, especially with background checks.
“I know a big problem right now is people with mental issues getting guns,” Tessa Stevenson, a junior political science major and registered Republican, said. She is also the president of the Milligan College Republicans but she emphasized that she was only speaking for herself. “I actually wrote (mock) legislation on background checks, and background checks for it included any type of commitment to a mental institute, whether it be voluntary or forcible, and domestic violence. I think another thing that would help is a mandated federal check and even on private vendors.”
Currently, private-party sellers are not required to perform background checks on buyers at gun shows or other venues.
Patrick Lines, a sophomore political science major and registered Democrat, said something similar.
“I think there’s a systematic culture of violence in this country and that’s promoted through a lot of different sources,” Lines said. “I feel like a step forward, maybe not a solution, would be to enact common sense gun safety laws, ending gun show loopholes and universal background checks. Also restricting people from watch lists, longer background checks and mandated training; that’s the same among all states.”
After noting that even stronger background checks will not deter everyone from obtaining arms, Lines also noted that background checks make a statement about whether our government cares about public safety.
“If we feel like mental illness is such a big deal in the country, then we need to increase spending money towards that, not cutting it like this administration has been doing,” Lines said. “I don’t think it’s one or the other, I think we need to increase spending for gun safety and mental illness.”
In 1996, Australia had their deadliest mass shooting, where 35 people were killed and 23 wounded. Just 12 days after the massacre, Prime Minister John Howard passed new gun control laws as well as a gun buyback program. The new laws banned rifles, made gun owner licensing much tighter and created national uniform registration standards. Since these laws, there has not been another mass shooting.
“I think that different things work for different countries because their cultures are different,” Stevenson said. “I know that, growing up in the south, it wasn’t just a gun, it was a pastime…. When they wrote the amendments, they thought it was important enough to be included. There are problems that need to be fixed, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think its right to completely take away the right to own a firearm.”
“Everyone in this country, every adult, has the right to use and own a firearm,” Lines said, “but if you own one you have the responsibility to know how to use it with endangering people as little as possible.”
When everyone was asked if they thought it would be worth it for the government to spend the money to fix background checks, everyone said yes except Brian Sackett, a junior exercise and science major and registered Independent.
“I would personally argue no, it’s not worth it,” Sackett said. “It’s not just a background check problem. Why are humans acting out in violence first? There’s a deeper root cause, more than people getting a background check and then getting firearms.”
Sackett also noted that not all attacks and incidents are perpetrated by guns. He believes, instead of having stricter gun laws, we should ask why people are acting out in “such extreme ways.”
“It is hard to see what prevention looks like, at least for me (each attack and incident) was violent,” Sackett said. “They all killed people, but does that mean you’re going to take away the rights of drivers just because you can run someone over with a car?
“I don’t think it makes a difference as to what we do here. Like I said before, we have an issue with human violence more than we have an issue of us using a weapon itself,” said Sackett. “You can use anything as a weapon. And it’s the choice of the individual to do so.”
Lines also brought up how politics and polarization play into situations like these.
“I think the way politics and media is portrayed tends to divide people on the political spectrum, and I think it’s often done at the expense of issues like this,” Lines said. “I don’t think common sense gun safety laws have to be a Democratic issue only.”