Shootings in the U.S. have clearly been on the rise.

It feels like almost every day brings a different news article of another incidence of gun violence. There have been six mass shootings so far this year and over 45 shootings in the last month. Violent crimes have risen by 4.7% so far this year, and 73% in Los Angeles alone.

The Council on Foreign Relations released charts that map gun violence in the U.S. vs. other countries with stricter gun laws. In the U.S., the amount of civilians who own guns triples the next highest country, Canada. Our homicides quadruple the next highest, which is Israel. The U.S., with less than five percent of the world’s population, owns 47% of the world’s civilian-owned guns. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, during Donald Trump’s reign as president, “there were no federal laws that banned semi-automatic assault rifles, military style .50 caliber rifles, handguns, or large-capacity magazines.”

Of course, there is only so much the federal government has control of regarding gun laws.

According to Time, in states with more restrictive gun laws, there were 4% few pediatric deaths and 35% lower risk for pediatric deaths in states with universal background checks in place for at least five years.

In 2007, Missouri repealed their permit-to-purchase gun law and saw a 55-63% increase in gun homicide rates per year for the next four years. On the contrary, in 1995 Connecticut passed a permit-to-purchase law and saw a 40% decrease in gun homicides over the next ten years. An estimated 85% of Americans say that they want stricter gun laws.

Despite the overwhelming evidence from both inside of the U.S. and outside that stricter gun laws yield less gun violence, there are many Americans who believe that gun laws should be looser.

They blame gun violence on issues like violent video games, mental illness, and a decline in family values. We’ve all heard the slogan, “guns don’t cause violence, people cause violence”. Of course, most of us know that violent video games have never been proven to cause violent behavior, only 7.5% of crimes committed are by people with mental illness (not only that, but people with mental illness are actually 2.5 times more likely to be the victims of violence, only 16% of jail inmates have mental illness, and 7% of federal prison inmates have mental illness), and so-called “non-traditional family structures” are far less influential on violent behavior than socio-economic status.

There are many causes of violence at which we can point our fingers. Poverty, lack of empathy, anger at a cheating spouse, social factors, economic factors, brain damage, peer pressure/influence from others, and on and on. If we’re trying to find the cause of violence, it must be done on a case-by-case basis. To wildly assign blame to a myriad of different factors isn’t going to get you very far because you won’t find a single root cause to be addressed. What can we address? The absolute, irrefutable fact that more guns equals more gun violence. All of this evidence should be enough to convince anyone of the harm that guns have caused; that we should be enforcing much stricter gun laws in our country.

We are creating a fear culture. A death culture. A culture that prioritizes weapons over safety.

So, why are so many people so stubbornly refusing to acknowledge the damage that our too-loose gun laws are causing?

Well, there’s the obvious issue of a man being insecure in his masculinity and feeling the need to “compensate for something”. Weapons are often used as a measure of one’s manhood instead of other, more prevalent, factors, such as whether or not the man has a good heart. But, this, of course, plays into stereotypical gender roles.

No, it’s more prominently because the correlation between guns and American patriotism are so intertwined in the American mindset. We need to remove the notion that to be a true American, you need to own firearms. Ask any gun-touting so-called “patriot” why we can’t remove the association between the two and he’ll throw the second amendment in your face.

“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.”

There are a few things we should consider when reading our nation’s second amendment. 

First.

That our constitution was meant to evolve with the times, as that is the only way that it can continue to be relevant. 

Second.

That the firearms used in 1776 were far less lethal than our current firearms. They were wildly inaccurate and took so long to load that you could only shoot three to four bullets per minute. 

Third.

That this amendment is not specific. It says “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms”. But, it does not specify what kind of arms. It does not specify how many arms. Nor does it specify if everyone is allowed to own arms or just the ones who are actually trained to use a gun, background checked, and permitted.

What it does say is that it is for the purpose of having a “well regulated Militia”, meaning that it is for protection from attack. Not for sport, not for show, not for pleasure. For protection. Remember, this was written just after the Revolutionary War, which took place on American soil, when there was still much fear, violence, and unrest. They needed to be prepared for more possible attacks.

Of course, since this amendment, as most of them are, was left pretty non-specific, it is up to us to create the laws that govern this right. We can specify what kinds of guns civilians are allowed to have, since nobody needs to have automatic or assault weapons. We could say that people who do not pass very specific and secure background checks are not allowed to have guns. Have laws in place to ensure that gun owners are being responsible with their weapons. Take away the loopholes that allow people to purchase guns at gun shows more easily. Or, what if we banned all guns? We could still carry arms in the forms of pepper spray, nightsticks, and knives.

What do you do to a child who has been misusing a toy?

You take the toy away. The American people have proven time and time again, after tragedy upon tragedy, that they can not be trusted with their grown-up toys. Why hasn’t our government, our parents, taken away our toys? How many people have to die before we can implement common-sense gun laws? Sure, there are some people who can be trusted not to misuse guns that they own. But guns are far too dangerous to keep allowing bad apples to ruin it for everyone else.

It’s been made even worse by the January 6th terrorist attack at the capitol. Our nation’s leaders experienced what it’s like to be in an active shooter situation. Finally, they knew what so many people have been through, including countless children, and still nothing has been done about gun laws. What is it going to take? More riots and protests? A mass shooting bigger than anything we’ve ever seen before? Another presidential assassination? 84% of us already want stricter gun laws. What else can we do?

Being a patriot should not be tied to owning a gun.

A person should not be considered a “true American” because he has the biggest or the most guns. Because, ultimately, at the end of a barrel of a gun is a body count. Making that connection is not what America is about. Yes, our founding fathers used guns to free our country from the clutches of the British, but being an American is about freedom and independence, love and acceptance. To put those ideals in the backseat in lieu of a symbol of violence is not only a massive misstep in priorities, but it’s also distinctly un-American. If you want to be a real American, a real patriot, start focusing on healing our country instead of tearing it apart because of your stubborn affinity towards a deadly weapon.

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