American gun laws need to change

Graphic by Alan Li

How are you right now? Are you relaxed? Feel your pulse — as you’re reading this — you’re probably somewhere safe and more likely than not, you’re calm. Enjoy the comforts surrounding you, but simultaneously, realize not all people enjoy these same luxuries.

You’re most likely reading this at a Canadian university and if you are, you might want to take a second to feel truly grateful to be in the country you are in.

In Canada, we have the privilege of being able to walk to class without the fear of our peers mindlessly firing off their weapon into the lecture hall, killing those you know, without any consideration  of the consequences. Sadly, this is not the case for our neighbours to the south.

The Florida  shooting that happened on Feb. 14 marks the 18th time a weapon has been discharged on a United States school campus since the beginning of 2018. At the time of writing, this year alone there has been 432 children and teenagers injured or killed by firearms in the U.S. This may cause many of us to ask the question, why?

For those who don’t know, the U.S has radically different gun laws than Canada and their right to own firearms was actually embedded into the American Bill of Rights by the American founding fathers. This has caused trouble for politicians trying to create more gun regulation since it was adopted in 1791.

These days, American politicians face a different type of obstacle, as pro-gun organizations, such as the NRA, have become heavily integrated  into Washington. These organizations provide millions of dollars to politicians’ campaigns. This can sway the votes of politicians and cause them to turn a blind eye to gun laws.

Some politicians in America have also decided to perpetually label these shootings as a mental health issue, but the American government continues to cut funding to mental health clinics and organizations.

The Trump administration wants to cut $1.7 trillion of support from Medicaid over 10 years, a program which spent over $45 billion on mental health support in 2014 alone.

Maybe it will take a politician’s child to be a victim before they push for change, or maybe, just maybe, other countries can peer pressure America into using common sense.

Another interesting fact is that Donald Trump is the first president to address the NRA National Convention in over three decades, showing that the NRA has more influence in Washington than it has had in a very long time.

With the right to bear arms so deeply embedded into American culture and political system, any politician who wishes to impose  meaningful gun regulations will have to overcome an immense amount of resistance.

This may leave you questioning  what we could  do as non-Americans  to help enact stricter gun laws.  I implore you to continue to advocate for change on  social media and keep the conversation alive. Although we cannot vote for the Americans, we can try to pressure them. Our societies are closely tied and with enough pressure, I believe the American civil society can create a significant change.

Many other countries have been able to enact stricter gun laws almost immediately after shootings. For example, the U.K, who implemented  stricter gun laws in 1996 after a mass shooting that resulted in the death of 16 children. Or even here in Canada, where we enacted stricter gun regulations after the shooting of 15-year-old Jane Creba in front of the Eaton Centre in 2012.

I don’t know what push America will need to enforce stricter gun regulations, because apparently the 432 children and teenagers in 2018 have not been enough.

Maybe it will take a politician’s child to be a victim before they push for change, or maybe, just maybe, other countries can peer pressure America into using common sense.

 

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