What’s Left: When is Enough, Enough?

Another shooting rampage took place this Monday, September 16, this time at the Washington Navy Yard in our nation’s capital. We have heard stories like this before: a lone gunman and 12 innocent victims dead. In the coming days we will assuredly hear all about the gunman’s backstory and how it led to these terrible murders. We will also hear the chorus of pundits talk about what caused the tragedy. 

As many are aware, gun violence in the United States is rampant. Our gun homicide rate per capita is 30 times higher than that of Britain and Australia, ten times that of India and four times that of Switzerland. Why do these senseless killings happen in the United States but not as frequently elsewhere? The answer is not at all complex but instead blindingly obvious: easy access to guns.

Many will try to claim that these numerous massacres are caused by a lack of emphasis on mental health in this country. This is simply untrue. The United States spends more per capita on mental health than any other country in the world. Certainly we should try to identify such at-risk people and help treat them immediately. However, this presents an immensely difficult and foolhardy task

 considering there are millions of fanatical, crazy people and very few turn into mass murderers. Do we really believe that the United States has 30 times more mentally ill people than Britain? I hardly find it likely. In fact, I think that talking about mental health only distracts us from the real problem.

The problem has been, currently is, and will continue to be guns. There are 88.8 private firearms per 100 people in America. The next closest country is war-torn Yemen at 54.8. There are 70 percent more civilian handguns in the U.S. than the next closest country. Over the past several decades we have seen a significant decline in violent crimes such as aggravated assault, motor-vehicle theft and non-firearm homicides, but we have seen no such trend for firearm homicides. 

Guns are the problem and there is no other explanation. It is time to solve this issue with stricter gun policies. We even have the perfect model to follow: Australia. Australia is an appropriate comparison because we are both wealthy, English-speaking democracies.  We watch the same movies and play the same video games.

However, our levels of gun violence could not be more different. On April 28, 1996 a killing spree took place in Port Arthur, Australia, resulting in 36 dead and 23 wounded. 

In response to public outrage, then-Prime Minister John Howard and Parliament agreed to pass bans on all semi-automatic rifles and all semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns and instituted a tightly restrictive system of licensing and ownership controls. This was a real ban on firearm possession, unlike our half-hearted ban in 1994 that had over 600 exemptions.

Additionally, they instituted a gun buy-back scheme that resulted in the purchase and destruction of more than 631,000 firearms. The effects have been stunning.  Since 1996, Australia has seen a 59 percent reduction in gun-related homicide. Gun-related suicide has fallen by 65 percent. 

There will always be deranged and evil people in this world. There is no way for our government to identify every potential killer and act accordingly. But our government can quite easily enforce gun laws that prevent the mentally unstable from obtaining firearms in the first place.

We need our government to hear our voices. We will not sit quietly and turn into a nation that fears our own neighbors. We will no longer stand for this senseless violence because today, enough is enough.

Contact Ben Krempley at [email protected].