Column: We need stricter gun laws

In the wake of the WDBJ shootings, Americans need to prioritize gun control more.

By all accounts, Alison Parker and Adam Ward were young and full of energy. They brought a lively vibe to all of the stories they covered for WDBJ News in Roanoke, Virginia. Their human-interest pieces brought a much-needed break from the violence and destruction that news stations often report on.

The pair was filming a live interview at 6:45 a.m. Aug. 26 at Bridgewater Plaza in Moneta, Virginia, where they were shot to death by Vester Flanagan, a former employee of the news station. Flanagan claimed in a manifesto that he killed the two reporters because he was fired based on discrimination of his sexuality and race. He deliberately made sure that they were filming before firing, and he posted a video of the event on Facebook. Flanagan also sent the manifesto to ABC News describing why he shot Parker and Ward while speaking admiringly of other notorious shootings. He later died from self-inflicted gunshot wounds after being cornered by police.

This new shooting brings up the question of whether the U.S. should have tighter gun control laws or not. There has been a lot of debate over the issue between the two opposing sides, but there hasn’t been very much governmental change in policy. It is time that we finally call for that change. For the sake of our schools, cities and news stations, our country needs stricter gun control laws.

Let me start off with some rather frightening facts about mass shootings in the U.S. to prove my point.

PolitiFact decided to track mass shootings in 11 advanced countries (Australia, Canada, China, England, Finland, France, Germany, Mexico, Norway, Switzerland and the U.S.) from 2000 to 2014. During this period, there were 133 mass shootings and 487 fatalities in the U.S. alone. There were 23 mass shootings, which left 200 dead and 231 wounded, in the other 10 countries. The U.S. accounted for more mass shootings than the 10 other countries combined.

According to a Mass Shooting Tracker, there has been a total of 249 mass shootings that have taken place in the U.S. this year alone. This number cannot be directly compared the aforementioned statistics because GrC defines mass shooting as “four or more people shot in one event,” while the FBI, and hence the media, defines a mass shooting as “four or more people murdered in one event.” Nevertheless, this number is not only terrifying, but also unacceptable. We, as a country, need to learn how to put our differences aside and ensure that our citizens are living in a safer environment.

Surprisingly, it seems that most U.S. citizens do agree with changing our gun control laws. A Pew Research Center poll(http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2015/08/29/how-americans-actually-feel-about-stronger-gun-laws/) taken in July found that Americans in general responded well to increased regulations on gun ownership. Eighty-eight percent of respondents favored background checks when purchasing guns from a private owner's; 79 percent supported banning people with mental illnesses from buying guns; and 70 percent supported the creation of a federal database to track gun sales across the country. Furthermore, 57 percent of respondents favored banning assault-style firearms.

While many Americans are in agreement over introducing stricter gun laws, there hasn’t been much change on a federal level. This is mainly due to individual states implementing nullification laws whenever the federal government presents a gun control law. According to the Washington Post(http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2014/08/29/in-states-a-legislative-rush-to-nullify-federal-gun-laws/), more than three-quarters of states have initiated nullification laws since 2008. Over 200 bills representing states’ dissatisfaction with federal control of guns have been introduced to the federal government in the past decade.

The leaders and representatives of this country need to listen to what the majority of Americans want in this debate. We need stricter gun control laws to prevent more people from perishing in mass shootings. This should no longer be a question of if these laws would infringe on a freedom that Americans have cherished for as long as the country has been founded. It is now a question of whether we want to address a nationwide public safety problem or ignore the situation and let it get increasingly out of control.

I, for one, no longer want to hear that somebody had the audacity and the means to shoot two reporters on a live broadcast. That does not symbolize freedom.

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