By Madeline Merrill
We live in a country with enough firepower that 90% of our 321 million populace could have their own gun. Flick on the TV, power on your MacBook, or open up your browser — immediately, onlookers are deluged by images of guns and war. The entertainment industry fuels a substantial portion of its viewership on violence. We tune in to the a college football game and actively critique the “time-out” TV advertisements — it feels as though the plot for every other TV show highlighted during the commercial break stems from violence, crime, drugs, or death.
As President Obama recently noted, “There is a gun for roughly every man, woman, and child in America.” CNN’s Ray Sanchez points out, “Civilians in the United States own about 270 million guns...that's almost the population of Indonesia, the world's fourth most-populated country. America ranks number one, in firearms per capita.”
So why do we not feel safer, with all this extra protective firepower? Why, in a land where we have the practically unrestricted ability to purchase a gun to protect ourselves and our loved ones, do some feel increasingly threatened?
Our lack of gun legislation is no longer tolerable. Already, our nation has sustained too many losses. The shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon last month is well past the tipping point. In 2013 alone, gun deaths in the United States totaled nearly 8,500.
The status quo is no longer acceptable. We are a nation crazed by bullets and violence and we must stop access to military-level firepower for civilians now. Congress has waited too long to implement simple gun control laws that could prevent future deaths.
One such regulation — universal background checks — has strong bipartisan support. A Quinnipiac poll found that 92 percent of Americans support background checks before gun purchases. Even more strikingly, 86 percent of Republicans and 98 percent of Democrats support background checks. For all the discord in Washington, both sides of the aisle seem to agree that legislation on this issue can save lives. Even so, Congress failed to pass background check legislation in 2013.
Restrict access to guns, and reduce mass-scale violence. Connecticut passed background check legislation in 1994. Researchers found that between 1996 and 2005, gun homicides dropped by 40 percent in the state — nearly 300 lives in 10 years.
The question of regulation no longer centers around “your rights” as a gun owner — it centers around my right to stay alive, to see tomorrow, to walk into a public venue or open space, and to walk away unscathed. “People kill people” — but guns make killing that much easier for those who should not have their hands on an automatic rifle in the first place.
Madeline Merrill is a 2017 MPP candidate at the University of Virginia Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. She serves as a Staff Writer for the Third Rail blog.