Since 1982, there have been sixty-two documented mass shootings in America. Twenty-five of these occurred after 2006 and seven in 2012. These events served as fuel for heavily scrutinized gun laws and, in response, the NRA and its allies have successfully passed 99 laws reducing gun restrictions. These laws make it easier for a civilian to acquire a gun and protect themselves from criminals like James Holmes, Adam Lanza and Seung-Hui Cho.
Some would blame the increase in violence on the leniency of gun laws; others would say that if the victims had been armed, the shootings could have been prevented or at least diminished in their severity. Some would also argue these atrocities reflect the failure of the mental health care system, for not identifying and treating these killers when most of them displayed signs foretelling their madness. Either way, the real question is does the increased availability of guns to civilians benefit or endanger the public?
Among the sixty-two documented mass shootings, forty-nine of the killers acquired their weapons legally and not one of them was stopped by an armed civilian. This could be because no civilian was properly armed, but imagine the situation of the Colorado movie theatre.
Imagine: It’s opening night. You and a couple of friends rush frantically to the movie theatre to secure a place in line so that you can get a ticket. After doing so, you purchase a drink, popcorn and whatever candy before sitting down to watch the much anticipated Batman movie. You’re excited. Everyone is. Looking around, you see a few people you know, wave at them, and even catch glance of some overzealous fans who dressed for the occasion. An overweight Cat Woman, a frighteningly similar Joker costume, and some guy who looks like War Machine from Iron Man. You chuckle.
The movie starts and the entire room dims black. After a few minutes or so, the War Machine looking guy exits the building. You pay little mind to it. He reenters and turns to face you. Some fan in the front row exclaims he’s being rude and should sit down. You hear a clanging sound like cold metal banging against concrete. A thick gas begins to fill the room. It’s smokescreen. Instinctively, you duck down and grab your friends as well. Your skin itches and you’re coughing. Somebody screams. Gun shots that sound like the bass kick of a drum. You’re scared, panicked, and not sure what to do. You stay low to the floor. You turn your head to the right. A middle aged man with an aggressive look on his face is reaching for something by his hip.
It’s a gun, a pistol of some sort. He’s gripping it tightly and looks like he’s about to do something rash.
“What are your chances of hitting him?”
He looks at you and then at his gun, then at you again. He moves his hand away from the gun and the horror continues.
It is true that more lenient gun laws provide citizens better access to protective firearms but as aforementioned, most of the killers involved in these shootings acquired their guns legally. In the past 31 years, there have been few cases of an armed civilian stopping a mass shooter. The Colorado shooter was hidden by a smokescreen deployed from a canister he’d thrown, equipped with a gas mask, load-bearing vest, ballistic helmet, bullet-resistant leggings and a throat protector.
However, banning guns indefinitely doesn’t seem to be the solution either. Even if accomplished, these people are criminals and criminals by definition don’t follow the law, but what are the gun laws doing for the safety of the American public?
In 1995, there were an estimated 200 million guns in private hands; today there are around 300 million. The US population is roughly 311 million.
More than ever, civilians are armed to protect themselves but what is it about this increase in gun sales that hasn’t lessened the occurrence of violence in our society? What changes do you think are necessary to our gun policy to protect yourself and those around you?