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OPINION: It’s time to do something about our guns

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Ohio Gov. John Kasich appears on CNN to talk about gun reform legislation. Screenshot via YouTube.

In light of another mass shooting in the U.S., Opinion Editor Ben Peters argues for change on the state level. 

Seventeen people were murdered in a horrific shooting that took place last week at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida (The writer of this piece also happens to personally know a student enrolled at Stoneman Douglas High School). The massacre has renewed a nationwide discussion on gun laws in America, a discussion that seems to conspicuously arise anytime a major gun-related incident occurs. This time, however, the routine post-shooting discourse seems to be much louder than usual. Americans have reached their tipping point, and to state it simply: something must be done.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich did an interview with CNN on Sunday to provide his thoughts on the issue. Kasich, who has historically held very inconsistent views on guns, refused to answer most of the questions tossed his way by the interviewer. When questioned about the financial consequences congressman may face from the National Rifle Association if gun regulations are passed, he completely negated the question.

Congressmen of both parties in the state of Ohio have taken nearly $300,000 in campaign contributions from the NRA since 2008. Rep. Steve Stivers (R) of Ohio’s 15th district, which includes Athens County, has taken nearly $30,000 from the NRA to fund his campaigns.

To answer the question Kasich so gracefully dodged: yes, there will be financial repercussions for congressmen who do not please the NRA. The NRA will likely pull funding from several congressmen’s campaigns if they choose to vote on any regulatory legislation involving guns. This is probably a large reason why congress had yet to make headway on any gun-related regulation.

Kasich suggested that working at the state and local level is the most efficient way to affect change on gun laws, and he’s right.

People who seriously call to ban guns in the United States at the federal level need a bit of a reality check. Banning guns in the U.S. would require a constitutional amendment which would necessitate three-fourths of both the House of Representative and the Senate to sign off or a constitutional convention called for by three-fourths of the state legislatures, which in 2018 is close to impossible. The Second Amendment is a part of the Bill of Rights, arguably the most important part of the constitution — making the likelihood of an amendment to it even more improbable. Even if an amendment was somehow, through the grace of god, passed, it would be impossible to remove the immeasurable number of guns in circulation around the nation.

At the state level, representatives are much more in touch with the needs of their constituents. They can help to reasonably affect smaller-scale changes that can go a long way, like the banning of bump-stocks (an attachment to semi-automatic rifles that helps users shoot at a higher fire rate).

Florida is also calling to require a person to be 21-years-old to purchase a long gun, when federal law requires someone to only be 21-years-old to legally purchase a handgun — a weapon with arguably less firepower.

However, some states’ solutions aren’t quite as sensible. Alabama is proposing a bill to effectively turn American high schools into police-states by allowing teachers to carry guns in a school.

Though it is a tired argument, it must be reiterated: guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Just like a knife, the gun is the device that assists a person in the act of killing. Yes, guns can assist in killing more efficiently and more effectively, but the fact remains that it requires a living, breathing human being to operate it.

The mental state of the human being operating the weapon is often not taken into consideration.

A consequence of living in a nation that grants humans free will (within the confines of the law) is that it is uncertain what a person will choose to do with that freedom. To some extent, the concept of a mass murder is impossible to prevent in a free society without fully stripping the rights of the people.

The United States has the highest incidence of mental health disorders in the world. Over 18 percent of the adult population in the U.S. (42.5 million people) suffer from debilitating mental illnesses which includes, but is not limited to, Depression, Bipolar disorder and Schizophrenia. Pair this with the fact that the U.S. is the only country in the world that guarantees its citizens the right to bear arms, and it is no wonder the nation experiences more gun violence than any other nation.

The issue of mass murder and violence is one that is incredibly complicated and is uniquely American. As a nation, It is important to take all factors into consideration and not pick and choose ones that align with a particular political agenda. While legislators need to get their act together in working to reform gun laws, we as citizens also need to get our act together and work toward achieving a more peaceful society.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article misstated the age in which a handgun can be purchased according to federal law.

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