Every few years, a shooting shocks the nation so dramatically that it brings the topic of gun control back into the public dialogue.
In 1999, it was the Columbine school shooting that left 13 dead including the two shooters; in 2007, the Virginia Tech Massacre, the worst shooting in American history, which left 32 dead; and July 2012, a shooter walked into a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado and killed 12 people and injured many more.
As seemed to be the cycle with these shootings, gun control and changes to the Second Amendment dominated discussion in the political sphere.
The pro-arms side declared that the shootings are evidence that the citizens need more guns to protect themselves and their families, while the pro-gun control side said that a weapon in the hands of any citizen is an invitation for more violence.
This would continue for some undetermined amount of time, but would eventually lose priority as other matters made their way to the forefront.
This was the cycle. And then the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting happened.
Ranked as the second worst shooting in U.S. history by The Washington Post, Sandy Hook brought shootings into a new light.
The difference between this shooting and all the rest was that the majority of the 26 victims were our most innocent citizens—our children—and the rest were those who dedicated their lives to teaching them.
Like it or not, there will likely be changes in gun control as the president and congress prepare to suggest new measures on the matter.
Those lobbying for much stricter gun control laws can point to the low rate of gun-related violence in countries like the U.K., which saw only 138 gun-related deaths in 2009, compared to the 31.6 thousand in the U.S. that same year according to a study by the University of Sydney.
However, the fact remains that there are too many guns in the U.S. to simply impose a universal gun control policy.
In 2011, the Small Arms Survey, a survey based out of Geneva, estimated that there are 270 million guns in the U.S. Many have been used in the defense of home and family as was the case on Friday, January 4 when Melinda Herman, a mother working from home in Georgia, shot an intruder to defend herself and her two small children.
The fact of the matter is that a compromise must be made between the two sides. Below are some possible solutions to lower gun violence:
Gun Registration for all Firearms
Just as all cars need to be registered to their owners, so should all firearms. While some states require permits or licenses for weapons such as handguns and assault weapons, most require no such registration for shotguns and rifles. A lack of firearm registration means little to no accountability for gun owners.
Harsher Punishments for Illegal Possession:
According to a census taken of the laws pertaining to illegal firearm possession by the Department of Justice, most states treat this crime as a misdemeanor with only a monetary punishment and community service. While most states have the right to give jail time to those found guilty, only 15 can give a sentence of a year or more.
Restrict Automatic/Assault Weapons:
Automatic/assault weapons have no place in average citizens’ hands and have been used in five of the 12 worst shootings in the country, according to The Washington Post. While gun collectors enjoy having these as part of their collection, they are most commonly used for military/police purposes, not defending one’s home or game hunting.
The argument of whether guns kill people or if people kill people is irrelevant. What is important to know is that firearms are potentially dangerous tools that require a certain amount of responsibility that our country currently lacks.
The bad guys will always find a way to do bad things, heinous crimes will be committed and lives will be senselessly lost. But these small changes could mean that our children are a little safer from shootings like Sandy Hook.