Gun violence in America has been a common scene of both chaos and carnage. National leaders respond to the issue in a seemingly systematic manner — thoughts and prayers; thought and prayers; thoughts and prayers — while innocent Americans continue to die.
Recent mass shootings at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, at a garlic festival in California, on a street in Dayton, Ohio, and and on a highway in Odessa-Midland, Texas, have continued the trend of thoughts and prayers but little action.
In Pennsylvania alone, there have been at least 6,624 shootings since 2014. Of these shootings, 2,656 people were killed and 5,704 were injured. This leads to the following question: At what point will Americans decide they have had enough of death and destruction from gun violence?
According to a recent Washington Post article, Walmart has decided to stop selling ammunition in their stores and have also asked their customers to stop openly carrying firearms within their locations. Other retailers including Kroger, CVS, Walgreens and Wegmans followed suit. Target, Starbucks and Chipotle have had policies against open carry for years, according to article. The actions of these businesses are a first step in the right direction. But what is the second step?
In 2014, the man behind the Midland-Odessa shooting failed a national criminal background check when he attempted to purchase a firearm. This was because he was deemed mentally unfit. The man, who was fired the morning of the shooting, is said to have purchased a firearm from a private seller.
According to an article by politifact, a national poll conducted by Quinnipiac University in 2017 (the most recent of its kind) asked Americans if they supported background checks for all gun buyers. A staggering 94% supported the notion. Other polls stretching throughout 2016 asked the same question and saw respondents approve anywhere from 84-89% in favor of background checks.
Still, the Odessa shooter was able to circumvent this by not buying from a store.
Clearly, we need to have a national conversation about gun laws in our nation and prohibit the ability of the mentally ill to obtain weapons like the one the Odessa shooter used to wreak havoc and destruction in Texas.
How do we as a society solve our gun problem? Is it through stricter gun laws, more thorough background checks or banning assault weapons?
How do we define an assault weapon to begin with? Is it the length of the barrel? The specification of the stock? The capacity of the magazine? Or the number of bullets it can spew out in a minute?
What happens when we find a public that does not wish to be disarmed of their weapons? A significant group of Americans hold true to the foundation of our nation that the Second Amendment does not exist to protect ordinary citizens from each other, but from a tyrannical government.
Any action from our legislative bodies may succeed in some areas; however, rural, small-town America is sure to take unkindly to the proposition that they give up their guns.
Disarming the public of their assault weapons would most certainly end in violence. Nobody likes to have their property taken away, and this would also lead to an ugly precedent setting forth the ability for legislative bodies to seize property from private citizens.
How could the seizure of weapons occur successfully — and without causing excess gun violence? If the government cannot accurately count every individual during the census every 10 years, how can it expect to successfully remove the weapons from our society?
Americans take pride in the rights they are given through the founding documents of their country. It is what sets them apart from other nations.
The conflict between these two sides and ideologies eerily echoes the controversy surrounding the Patriot Act of the early 2000s, which asked Americans to forego their national values of freedom and privacy to help ensure the continued safety of their fellow citizens. By adding TSA security at the airports and limiting what can be taken on a plane, Americans are arguably safer than they were 18 years ago.
But adding security to seemingly everywhere is not an attainable reality.
The issue of gun violence has been building to an undetermined breaking point. Almost daily, there is news of yet another American city affected by gun violence. When is enough enough?
Obviously something needs to be done.
The Slate generally agrees that all gun purchases, whether they are from a Walmart store or from your neighbor down the street, should require background checks.
But it is difficult to weigh between the freedoms of the individual and the necessary safety of the public.
The American people have the right to own and carry guns. But those same individuals also have the right to have an education, go to the mall or movie theater without the fear and danger of “what if…” Americans should have the right to live their lives without fear.
The unsigned staff editorial, “The Slate Speaks,” represents the views and opinions of The Slate as an organization. Participating editors help shape the staff editorial.