On the 20th April 1999, 13 people were murdered at a shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado. On the 15th February 2018, 17 people were murdered at a shooting in Parkland, Florida. In 19 years, there have been 25 fatal school shootings in the United States of America, let alone other incidents including the Orlando Night Club shooting in 2016 and the Las Vegas shooting in 2017 which has been recorded as the largest mass shooting in history which included the deaths of 58 people and the further horrific injuries to 851 others. (1)
This week’s shooting, occurring at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, is one of the deadliest US school shooting since 2012 at Sandy Hook high school. At Douglas, three teachers and 14 students aged 14-18 have been reported to have lost their lives in the violence. The shooter has been named as Nickolas Cruz, an ex-student at the school. The FBI has admitted to having been tipped off about Cruz last year, and there were images on his now-deleted social media page of him with guns and knives. The BBC has reported that:
“He has appeared in court charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder”.
“Two separate Instagram accounts, now deleted, purport to show Mr Cruz posing with guns and knives.”
“US media quote the head of white supremacist group the Republic of Florida, Jordan Jereb, as saying Mr Cruz had once trained with them, but the group had not wanted or ordered him to carry out a school shooting.” (2)
Despite these attacks on citizens, the issue is highly politicised and requires White House legislation to push through gun laws, and receive a majority vote from congress and the senate. To those not familiar as to why there is a lack of legislation, one of the reasons is because of the 2nd amendment in the Bill of Rights which was written in 1789. The Bill of Rights includes the 10 amendments to the constitution which was written in 1788 (3) . The document was written by the founding fathers as a physical way in which Americans would have set laws to abide by, and rights in which they owned as citizens of this nation. However, over 2 centuries later, the world as we know it has changed, including weaponry and society – which is a case to argue for laws that are appropriate for the modern world.
Most countries place emphasis on protecting their constitutions because of the rights they have entrenched within them, especially the US constitution which references freedom of speech in the first amendment. In the UK, we have an unwritten constitution, which allows the courts to interpret laws as they choose and not to a strictly worded document. This could be viewed as more democratic and applicable to the 21st century. In 1987 in Hungerford, UK 16 people were shot dead, and in Stirling, Scotland in 1966 – 18 were killed at Dunblane Primary School. After this, strict Firearm rules were implemented which require an individual to have an SGC FAC certificate and have no prior convictions or a history of medical conditions (4).
The point here is that, having no regulations in regards to guns is contributing to these fatal mass attacks in the US. Many individuals are quick to comment on the fact that it is ‘people not guns’ who cause these unnecessary deaths, however fail to acknowledge that it is access to these weapons that is the issue. Many high profile figures have commented on the mental health of the individual as an issue, but currently the US and sadly the UK government has reduced mental health funding. There is a correlation to suggest that by having gun license laws enacted, then there would be a reduction in gun violence – as seen in the UK for just one example.
These sentiments are similar to those expressed by the students and families affected by the shootings in Florida. Many young people who attend Parkland High School have spoken out on Twitter. A few high profile figures have commented on not politicizing the matter, however the unfortunate students who were literally hiding in cupboards and rooms in fear of their lives have condemned this. During a CNN broadcast, one of the survivors begged to politicians: “We are children. You guys are, like, the adults. Take action, work together, come over your politics, and get something done”. In terms of changing the legislation, VOX reported that:
“The truth, obviously, is that it’s extraordinarily unlikely that anything will be done. Republicans hold a 51-49 majority in the United States Senate, and even if two or three moderates could be tempted to cross the aisle and endorse a modest gun control measure, as Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and a couple of others did in 2013 in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, you’d need 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, which is very hard.” (5).
Despite this, it appears evident that people are going to keep protesting against the lack of gun controls, including thousands who attended the funeral of those who lost their lives. As university students ourselves, it is devastating to even consider this happening in our country and we are lucky that we have laws in place to reduce the ownership of firearms. This issue needs to be tackled head on, with the commentary and cooperation with other governments and secret services globally to help reduce, nay eliminate mass shootings.
By Elle Haywood
20th February 2018
Image Credit: Adobe Stock