Madi Baughman is a freshman journalism and political science major at MU. She is an opinions columnist who writes about political and civil rights issues for The Maneater.
I went to bed on Sunday night, and everything was normal. I woke up Monday morning and found that the world had turned upside down again.
That morning, we all woke up to the news of an American tragedy in Las Vegas: the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history by a single gunman. With more than 50 people dead and hundreds more injured, we are left in heartbreak and shock, as we have been all too many times after witnessing horrors like this one.
Higher firearm ownership rates, made possible by lax gun sales regulations and gun control laws, are directly correlated with more shooting deaths. The rate of people killed by guns in the U.S. is 19.5 times higher than in similar high-income countries around the world, and we have the highest number of school shootings in the world, as well. Federal laws require background checks on all commercial gun sales — however, approximately 40 percent of all gun sales in the U.S. are made by unlicensed sellers. This leaves a lot of room for dangerous, unmonitored activity, such the “gun show loophole,” when private sellers do not have to get a license to sell, such as at a gun show or other events. There’s also the possibility of “straw purchases,” where people who cannot legally obtain guns get them through people who can.
So why does this affect Missouri? While Missouri isn’t as dangerous as some other states in terms of the number of mass shootings conducted, our firearm death rate is well above the national average. 2013’s national firearm death rate in the U.S. was 10.64 per 100,000 people. Missouri’s was 14.56, and this number will only continue to grow as long as the government relaxes regulations.
Tightening background check regulations and making it harder for people with a history of offenses to get guns wouldn’t do anything but help people, and yet our representatives keep blocking gun control regulations. For years, Missouri had one of the nation’s strongest measures to regulate gun usage: a requirement that all handgun buyers had to get a gun permit by undergoing a background check at a sheriff’s office — but this was repealed in 2007. Unsurprisingly, the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research found that in the first 6 years after Missouri repealed this requirement, the gun homicide rate was 16 percent higher than it was before.
There will always be the argument that people who “really want guns” will get them no matter what, but taking important steps in prevention would significantly lower that number, and why wouldn’t you want to work toward the possibility of saving as many lives as possible, even if there will always be outliers? That’s like saying a robber who really wants to break into your house will get in no matter what; we still lock our doors at night.
After tragic situations like what happened in Vegas, the U.S. cannot afford to take chances when it comes to endangering innocent lives. Concerts should be places where people can go and enjoy themselves, not where they have to fear for their lives.