Tragedy in Vegas: Is it Time to Talk Now?

October 5, 2017

Ah, America—the land of the free and the home of the brave. Ever stop to think about what exactly freedom means, though? According to the US Constitution, all citizens have a number of rights, some of which include: the right to say what they want (freedom of speech), the right to believe in what they want to believe in (freedom of religion), and the right to bear arms—that’s the right to own guns. But should everyone have the right to own guns?

On Sunday, October 1st, thousands of concert-goers were enjoying an open-air country music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada, when a sixty-four-year-old American man named Stephen Paddock started shooting into the crowd, killing fifty-nine people and injuring hundreds more. President Trump called the shooting “an act of pure evil,” and investigators are slowly piecing together the story behind what is being called the worst mass shooting in modern US history. The authorities are still trying to figure out who Stephen Paddock was, and how he got access to so many guns.

As the country tries to make sense of this tragic event, the question of gun ownership and gun control has once more sparked debate across the country. Again, we ask: should all people have the right to own guns? It’s another one of those simple questions that doesn’t actually have a simple answer. Why? Well, let’s go back to the Constitution, shall we?

By Constitutional Convention [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The Constitution was created by the Founding Fathers to serve as a foundation for building a democratic country. The Constitution serves three main purposes. The first is to make sure that no one branch of government has total power—that’s why there are the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The second purpose is to separate federal and state powers. And the third is to protect the rights of American citizens, something that the first ten Amendments (also known as the Bill of Rights) were specifically written to do. The Second Amendment states that “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.” What does that mean? It means that people have the right to protect themselves, and therefore are allowed to buy and own guns. But what if someone purchases a gun to harm others? Should they still be allowed to buy it? That’s where the debate shifts from gun ownership to gun control. Gun control is the idea behind controlling who should be allowed to own a gun. Some believe that the government should do more to control gun ownership, while others believe that the government should not take away one of the basic rights of a US citizen.

The United States is one of the only countries in the world that allows its citizens to own guns, but it’s also one of the countries with the highest number of deaths by firearms. Some people still want the right to own guns but believe that there should be more control over who can own them. Several states already have laws in place that require gun owners to be at least eighteen years old, have no criminal background, and have no mental illnesses. Other people believe that no one should be allowed to own a gun, and that perhaps the Second Amendment is outdated and needs to be changed. The debate continues about what the government should or should not do to prevent tragedies like that in Las Vegas.

What do you think the United States should do about gun ownership? Should the government control gun ownership? What can the United States do to keep its citizens safe?