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Op-Ed: What Are the Answers to American Gun Violence?

Op-Ed: What Are the Answers to American Gun Violence?
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The 2020-2021 school year, with instruction in remote settings, brought more challenges than most school years. Additionally, civic engagement grew more important than ever, as movements for racial justice gained momentum and democracy was threatened from multiple fronts. What was a teacher to do? While it sometimes seemed scary or counterintuitive, an important action was to get out of the way. Yes, teachers need to build strong relationships and provide rigorous lessons to scholars in order to prepare them for an unknown future, but teachers also need to let scholars engage and grow without interfering and stunting that progress. Therefore, having the scholars conduct research and write op-eds on topics important to them carried more weight and impact this year than in years past. Here is one of the essays that came out of that process this past school year. — Samson Patton, teacher, STRIVE Prep RISE in Green Valley Ranch

How many people do you know who have become a victim of gun violence? The answer would be a lot. A study has shown that 115,551 people lose their lives due to gun violence every year. I can say that I, too, have suffered the negative consequences of owning a gun. At a young age, I was taught how to use a gun, as was almost every member of my family.

On March 16, 2016, we heard the worst news any family could receive. My cousin Amen, who was six at the time, had shot himself accidentally. He was in a coma for three weeks before he passed. I was thirteen and had a really hard time coming to terms with the fact that the gun I was always told would protect me was the same gun that took Amen’s life. Two months later, Amen’s sister committed sucide because she couldn't take the pain of losing a little brother.

Now when I remember those days, it always amuses me how I lost members of my family to a gun that my grandfather owned. Our family did not have enemies; we kept those guns to have an added sense of security — but they ended up taking our peace and joy.

Gun violence has been one of the leading causes of death in America, yet we still don't see people actively trying to put an end to it. Nearly five million new gun owners joined the 100 million-plus gun owners just in the year 2020. A majority of those gun owners cite protection as their primary reason for owning a gun, but when it actually comes to home invasion and property crime, successful firearm defenses were involved in a mere 0.1 percent of incidents. The Bureau of Justice Statistics studied 29,618,300 violent crimes from 2007 to 2011 and tabulated all of the reported “self-protective” behavior; repelling criminals with a firearm was only 0.8 percent of all incidents.

Another argument people use in defense of gun violence is the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights: “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 was written back when America had just broken with the British empire and had no professional army, so it made sense at the time to empower the citizens themselves to serve as a well- regulated militia. In the 21st century, when America has one of the world's leading military forces, this argument is highly invalid.

"A three-year-old kills herself with a loaded gun": We hear this type of news every few weeks all over the States. Imagine your kid accidentally shooting himself with the gun you purchased to protect yourself and your family. How protected would you really feel?

I want to make one thing clear: A gun is not a safety blanket, a gun is a weapon that kills. No matter what your reason is for purchasing that gun, I can tell you without a doubt that you had an underlying motive of killing or harming someone. As long as we have guns in the homes of civilians, we will continue to have this bloodshed. According to one study, the rate of firearm deaths per 100,000 people rose from 10.3 per 100,000 in 1999 to 12 per 100,000 in 2017, with 109 people dying per day.

It is time for change. Restrictions aren't always harmful; sometimes restrictions provide the guidelines for peace. We can see this in other countries that have more gun control. For example, Singapore is said to have the world's strictest rules and requirements when it comes to gun control. In comparison to the United States’ shocking statistics, Singapore had only 0.02 deaths due to gun violence per 100,000 people, whereas the USA’s rate was 215 times worse.

President Joe Biden recently announced initial actions to address gun violence in terms of ghost guns, investing in evidence-based community violence interventions and so on. By taking these steps, President Biden has shown that he truly cares about the well-being of the people. He even referred to gun violence as a “public health epidemic.” This might not eliminate the threat guns have in our life completely, but I think these are significant actions that will take us one step closer to a safer future.

While it's all said and done, I believe the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights is in need of revision. Rules and regulations need to be updated according to the current times. Circumstances back in the 18th century may have allowed for looser restrictions on guns, but the world has changed — which means it's time to change gun rules, too.

Wouldn't you agree?

Westword occasionally publishes op-eds and essays on topics of interest to the Denver community. Have one you'd like to submit? Send it to editorial@westword.com, where you can also comment on this piece.

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