Column: In the year since Parkland, little has been done to prevent gun violence

The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida galvanized the country around gun violence a year ago — but we seem to have forgotten about it.

Bryce Kolk is a freshman journalism major at MU. He is an opinion columnist who writes about politics for The Maneater.

If you or someone you know are in need of support, call the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

It’s been a year since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that killed 17 and injured 17 more. Since that date, no nationwide legislation has been implemented to prevent such attacks.

Gun control galvanized the country just a year ago, drawing roughly 200 thousand people to the “March for Our Lives” protest in Washington, d.c.. But despite the groundswell of support for gun control legislation a year ago, that support has dwindled.

Immediately following the shooting, support for further gun restrictions was at 71 percent nationwide, according to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll. That number has declined significantly to 51 percent, according to a follow-up poll.

Our national gun control agenda seems to be set based on how long it’s been since the last major mass shooting. Sustained outrage over these events is difficult to maintain, but in order to bring substantial changes, there needs to be immense pressure.

There are more civilian owned guns in America than anywhere else in the world per capita, with 89 guns per 100 civilians, according to the 2007 Small Arms Survey. We lead Yemen, in second place, by 34 guns. We also own about half, 48 percent, of the total civilian-owned guns worldwide.

With all those guns, it’s no surprise that we lead high-income countries in gun homicides, according to the World Health Organization. Americans are 51 times more likely to be killed by gun violence than those in the United Kingdom, according to data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

December saw the only recent nationwide gun legislation as the Trump administration banned bump stocks. These devices allow a semi-automatic weapon, such as the AR-15 used in Parkland, to simulate automatic fire. This increases the potential fire rate, making them much more lethal.

A bump stock was used in the Las Vegas shooting, which killed 58 and left more than 850 injured, but was not used in the Parkland shooting. The destructive capabilities of bump stocks are apparent, but banning them will do nothing to prevent similar shootings in the future.

Since the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, there have been no nationwide legislative changes to prevent a similar mass-casualty university shooting.

A potential solution lies in limiting access to these weapons.

This past January, Democrats introduced legislation to expand background checks on gun sales. While it is expected to pass the House, Senate Republicans are likely to reject it.

Universal background checks have 97 percent support among Americans, with just two percent opposing them, according to a Quinnipiac poll.

Why might Republicans reject such a popular proposal? Money, of course.

The National Rifle Association has donated more than $19 million to Republicans since 1990, according to Open Secrets. Last year, 98 percent of the $862 thousand raised went to Republican candidates.

The Republican party is being held for ransom by the NRA, and the hostages seem to be the American people. Republicans are sacrificing both democracy and human lives to keep their funding from the gun lobby.

As part of their copy-paste responses to mass shootings, Republicans tend to call for prayer. Prayer may bring solace to some, but it leaves future victims of gun violence forgotten. Preventing gun violence involves action from mortal beings, not well-wishes to God.

Another common line from the GOP decries the mental health of the shooter. Of course, no sane person would slaughter innocents in cold blood, but this platitude is wholly disingenuous. In 2017, the Trump administration repealed an Obama-era regulation that made it more difficult for the mentally ill to own guns.

An oft-forgot aspect of the gun control debate revolves around suicide.

While high-profile shootings get the media coverage, the majority of gun deaths in the United States are suicides. In 2016, 61 percent of the 37,353 gun deaths were suicides, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Guns can tempt those at risk of suicide unlike any other method. They provide a quick and effective way out. Gun-related suicides have been on a steady increase since 2006.

Under current law, a person may be barred from purchasing a gun if they are involuntarily committed to a mental hospital, or if a court or government body considers them mentally incompetent. There is nothing to prevent most suicidal people from obtaining a weapon.

There are a few international examples lawmakers and mental health professionals can draw upon.

In Canada, for example, backgrounds are run to see if an applicant has been treated for mental health issues. It’s similar in our system in that it checks history, but it’s much stricter in who is afforded a firearm.

The U.K. reviews mental health history as well, but also sources references to confirm an applicant’s mental state.

Japan has some of the strictest gun laws in the world and screens applicants with a mental health test at a hospital. Rather than assume an applicant is stable, Japan has applicants prove it.

It’s worth saying that limiting access to guns is only one side of the issue. Clinically treating mental health problems is critical.

Gun control legislation is needed to prevent future mass shootings, as well as limit the number of gun-related suicides. Congress must be under constant pressure, not just after mass shooting incidents.

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