The recent shootings happening all around the country are leaving people scratching their heads, wondering what to do next. Not only are people trying to figure out how to cope with this reality, but also figure out the best solutions. The implementation of gun control laws has been a great debate for some time now. It is a debate that has been visited and revisited time and time again. Some stand on the side of leniency, allowing people to carry, to protect their own well-being. Others lean towards cracking down on who is allowed to purchase a gun, and in some cases even monitoring how each person is using it. In a rebuttal to this argument, some have claimed that this is simply trampling on Americans’ free will. Even still, throughout all this debate the question still remains, what should we do about gun control?
Let’s explore a few of the facts, common public opinion/ theories, the past, and our current reality to try to get an idea of how and why these mass shootings occur. One film that I believe does an excellent job of dissecting the history of violence in America, as well as common public opinions and misconceptions around America’s history of brutal violence and use of guns, is “Bowling for Columbine,” a film by Michael Moore. Moore takes these facts and theories and ties them back to the potential primary causes of the Columbine High School shooting, forcing the audience to question Americans’ common use of guns.
At the beginning of the film, Moore interview’s a few members of The Michigan Militia, an organization founded in 1994 by gun store owners and veterans, whose members primarily believe in the use of guns for protection against the government or any potential societal disasters. This organization is also well-known for its long history of anti-government activity. As Moore questioned one of the members about his views on the use of guns for protection, the member responded: “It’s an American responsibility to be armed.”
While this point of view might have at least some truth to it, and while it may be a good idea to be allowed to purchase a gun for protection, here’s an example of how limited regulation on guns, and even materials to make explosives, can go terribly wrong. Moore introduces James Nichols, the brother of Terry Nichols, an American terrorist, convicted of being an accomplice in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. James Nichols was also investigated in connection to the bombing, but was let go due to lack of evidence. At the beginning of the interview, James seems like a normal guy, but as the interview goes on, his extremist views slowly begin to seep out. Frighteningly, as James Nichols explains his point of view on the government, he says “when the government turns tyrannical, it is our duty to overthrow it,” showing little to no interest in Moore’s suggestion of a potential peaceful approach to his indifference. At one point, Nichols brags about the guns hidden around his home, eventually showing Moore a gun he had hidden under his pillow, laughing, as he pointed it toward his own head.
We don’t know whether James Nichols was actually a part of the bombing or not, but the point is, he and his brother had access to weapons. One still does; Terry Nichols was convicted, but James Nichols is still out there.
Still, it is a tough argument, because some could argue that to limit who can buy a gun is stripping rights from an American citizen, and opens the door to other rights being stripped from the average American. One example of this currently is the new law banning and/or restricting abortion, which many see as one of the basic human rights. Another potential rebuttal is the discrimination that government officials could be accused of if they were to enforce disallowing someone with a shady background from purchasing a gun. Potential questions like, what does a “shady background” look like or consist of, and can someone who made a mistake in the past be forgiven? Some could argue that in James Nichols’ case, he couldn’t help what family he was born into and his shady associates could have just come off as really nice people, so how could he have known what they were going to do? Should James Nichols have to suffer a lack of personal protection because of an act that another committed? The varying factors that come with this situation make deciding what to do about gun control even more complex. So let’s simplify it by going over a few hardcore facts.
While it is understandable that some find it useful to have at least a reasonable amount of access to guns to protect ourselves from potentially dangerous occurrences, if we take a look at a few concrete facts that help inform the debate on gun control, the current relatively lenient access to guns might be what is actually contributing to the issue in the first place.
According to an article by NPR reporter Britt Cheng, called “12 Stats to Help Inform the Gun Control Debate,” approximately 100 people are killed by guns in the United States every day. If that isn’t astounding enough, 12 children die every day from gun violence in the United States. It has also been reported that there have been 950 school shootings since Sandy Hook, including the 27 school shootings that have happened so far this year. Cheng also reports that the peak ages for offending violence with firearms are ages 18 to 21. Lastly, only 1% of people defend themselves with their guns in violent crimes.
With all of this in mind, ask yourself, if guns were totally removed from the equation, would any of these statistics even exist?
Even though this is a non-factor, and guns do exist, are used, and will continue to be, is the potential protection guns may grant you worth it, if only 1% of people use their guns to do so?
Now let’s go back to the Michael Moore film. As Moore speaks to various individuals, ranging from everyday business professionals, recent high school graduates, bank tellers, and farmers, about gun violence. He begins to hone in on the potential contributing factors to the Columbine High School shooting. After the Columbine High School shooting, many struggled to find answers to why these young high school boys went into their school and shot their fellow classmates and then themselves. Many blamed the subculture, violent movies, video games, and even Marilyn Manson. While we will never know why the boys did it, again, several potential factors exist, such as the boys allegedly being bullied, and allegedly playing violent video games. But what seems the most apparent factor in not only this mass shooting, but all the others, is that all the shooters were able to easily gain access to guns.
The variable that exists in every single case is a gun.
The recent Fourth of July celebration in Highland Park, Illinois, the Uvalde, Texas shooting, the Sandy Hook Shooting, and the Columbine High Shooting, along with a long list of others (which you can review on the Gun Violence Archive website in the works cited) all occurred–even though they all had other contributing factors–because the shooters had access to guns.
Both sides, for and against gun control, have compelling arguments, but the loss of human lives–men, women, and children–stands in the middle of it all.
Ask yourself, at this point, with all the lives lost, is being able to hold a gun in your hand even worth it?
At the very least, limiting the accessibility of guns will help keep them from falling into the wrong hands.
Gun Violence Archive . “Mass Shooting in 2022.” Gun Violence Archive, 2022, https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/reports/mass-shooting.
Cheng, Britt. “12 Stats to Help Inform the Gun Control Debate.” NPR, 27 May 2022, https://www.npr.org/2022/05/27/1101774780/gun-control-debate-statistics.
Bowling for Columbine. Directed by Michael Moore, 2002.
The New York Times. “A Partial List of Mass Shootings in the United States in 2022.” The New York Times, 16 May 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/article/mass-shootings-2022.html.