When firearms cause more harm than good

Photo by U.S. Navy


“How many people have to die for things to change?”

“They should raise the age for having a gun.”

“Guns aren’t the problem. Mental illness is the problem.”

“My AR-15 is for self-defense.”

These are just a few of the typical reactions when people debate guns and gun laws.

And while it seems these phrases have been heard more frequently in recent years due to an increasing number of mass shootings, not much has changed as a result of the ongoing debate.

Usually after a mass shooting, the media and citizens focus on it for two or three weeks and then the conversation lessens.

But it’s been a little over a month since the tragedy that took 17 lives in Parkland, Fla., and the voices of survivors are still almost as loud as they were after the shooting.

Within a week of the shooting, students of Stoneman Douglas High School launched a movement (#NeverAgain), led a televised town hall and traveled to their state capital all while organizing a nationwide protest for March 24.

Although the topic is getting coverage, it doesn’t necessarily mean that those in power are listening – and that might not be a bad thing.

If American history has proven anything, it is that when enough citizens unify to demand change the government has no choice but to listen.

But for citizens to unify and demand change requires that a strong majority believe there is a need for change.

The gun issue is divisive.

According to a recent Gallup poll, only 2 percent of Americans said that they had no opinion on whether or not the country should have stricter gun laws.

On the Detroit Mercy campus, many have clear opinions about it.

Freshman Frank Dowd is among them.

He said he stands strongly behind the Second Amendment and doesn’t think stricter gun laws will change anything.

“Raising the minimum age to 21 to possess a firearm won’t really change anything,” he said. “Chicago has the strictest gun laws and they have a lot of problems.”

Dowd’s comment is similar to one by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders after the Las Vegas shooting.

“I think if you look to Chicago, where you had over 4,000 victims of gun-related crimes last year, they have the strictest gun laws in the country,” Huckabee said. “That certainly hasn’t helped there.”

Illinois gun laws as a whole are more restrictive than laws in other states.

Chicago was given the title of having the strictest gun laws after a ban on handguns in 1982.

But in 2010 in McDonald vs. Chicago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the ban unconstitutional.

Chicago still has strict gun laws. But, according to the University of Chicago Crime Lab, the majority of guns used in violence in Chicago are brought from another state.

This is why it is important to have action at the federal level.

This is what students in Parkland and elsewhere are seeking.

Although the #NeverAgain movement was begun in Florida and one of its goals was to get policies implemented in the state, the bigger goal targets action in Washington, DC.

The students don’t want the laws to change just to prevent anymore school shootings or public shootings. They want them to end gun violence in America.

These students understand that in Chicago and other places, students their age have been dealing with gun violence all their lives.

Unfortunately, they rarely get the media attention they need.

Such attention is one of the things Detroit Mercy law professor Khaled Beydoun hopes will come out of this moment.

“Another thing I hope will come out of this is that teenagers and college students help uplift the voices of minorities and communities that are often unheard and silenced, like in Chicago,” he said.

Hope and the want for change are clearly present if nothing else.

But action is needed.

When asked what the government would need to do to start implementing actual solutions, Detroit Mercy law professor Catherine Archibald offered a list.

Archibald said that the first step would be getting money out of politics, a prime example being the NRA’s money.

She also said more students would need to get involved, leading more states to take action, and she recommended looking to other countries as a guide on how to make it harder to purchase firearms.

If this seems overwhelming to you and you feel hopeless, don’t.

Political science professor Genevieve Meyers said that the most important thing right now is to make sure the movement doesn’t go quiet because that is when things will go back to normal and nothing will change.

The courts have made it clear that the Second Amendment gives Americans the right to bear arms.

And many purchase firearms for self-defense.

But when those firearms are resulting in more harm than good, where do we draw the line?