Part 2: Do Something!

September 3, 2019

Here at Xyza, we’re continuing our discussion of gun control. What’s being done or discussed to prevent future gun violence in the United States? Before we share some of what we’ve uncovered, let’s take a step back to understand why it’s so difficult for a country like the United States to agree on universal gun control measures in the first place.

By Constitutional Convention [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
First, a quick history lesson: The United States was built on the idea of democracy and freedoms. That’s why there’s the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Within the Bill of Rights are ten amendments, the second of which is the right to bear arms: 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. The right to bear arms continues to be one of the strongest arguments for why some gun owners are against gun control laws.

Second, although there is a general federal statute specifying a minimum age requirement for possessing and selling guns, each state also has its own gun control laws. For example, what might be okay in Texas might not be okay in Colorado. Interesting facts? California has some of the toughest gun laws in the country and Missouri has the weakest. Only twenty one states have some requirement of a background check before the sale of a firearm. What’s even more interesting is that according to the Giffords Law Center, states with the toughest gun laws in the country also have the least number of gun-related deaths, while those with the weakest gun laws have the highest number of gun-related deaths.

So why, might you ask, would anyone be against gun-control laws if having tougher gun laws saves lives? We know you’re tired of hearing it, but it’s complicated.

When it comes to guns, there are many parties involved. There are manufacturers, sellers, and buyers. And among the buyers, there are many reasons for purchasing a gun. Some think that having gun control laws means that their guns will be taken away. (That’s not true, by the way, at least not in the United States). Some think that gun control laws infringe upon their Second Amendment right. And still others believe that guns don’t cause gun violence, and point to mental instability or violent video games as causes.

So what’s being proposed to help prevent future gun violence?

1.  Tougher Gun Control Laws
There’s a call from some people for tougher gun control, but unfortunately it’s difficult to get every lawmaker to agree on what this actually means. There’s ongoing debate on making a universal background check a federal mandate or to make it illegal to purchase military-style weapons such as semi-automatic weapons. While more states have recently passed background checks as a requirement at the point of sale of a gun, there’s still a lot of debate on the federal level as to what should or should not be a federal mandate. What’s gaining the most traction, however is the Red Flag law that’s already in effect in seventeen states and the District of Columbia.

What Are Red Flag Laws?
Red Flag gun laws are preventative laws in which family members or the police can go to the court and request that a person be temporarily banned from possessing a weapon if they feel that he or she may cause harm to themselves or to others. Although five states already had this type of law in place prior to 2018, twelve states enacted them after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting when investigations revealed that family members of the shooter had warned police before the shooting that they suspected the shooter was going to do something violent.

Who’s Proposing The Bill?
The Red Flag law is a proposal being brought to Congress by Republican Senator Lindsay Graham and Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal. One of the biggest issues with trying to pass gun control legislation through Congress has been the reluctance of the parties to agree. This bill has senators hoping for bipartisan (that means both parties) support.

2.  Companies Are Taking Large And Small Actions
After last year’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Dick’s Sporting Goods, the retailer that sold the weapons to the person who killed 17 people (14 of whom were students) made the decision to stop selling certain assault-style weapons and to stop selling any guns to people under the age of twenty-one. Following the recent tragedies, Walmart, the store in which the El Paso shooting took place, has been pressured to do the same. Walmart has since decided to remove posters that invoke violence throughout its stores.

3.  Youth-led Initiatives
Youth have played a significant role in getting gun control legislation passed in a number of states where universal background checks were not required. March for Our Lives mobilized youth from across the country in a country-wide protest and is now a gun control organization fighting for gun control legislation. Other leaders include Ruben Martinez, who with the help of his mom, started an online challenge with the hashtag #elpasoCHALLENGE, challenging people to do twenty good deeds. Whether large or small, efforts have been made by youth towards doing something.