Around 30,000 people die from gun-related occurrences each year, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. In the last 30 years, there have been 61 mass shootings, or single incidents involving multiple victims of gun violence —- and most of the guns used in these shootings were purchased legally. In light of these alarming — numbers, one would think that gun violence and regulation would be important election issues.
But neither candidate’s campaign even has a minor focus on gun control. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who signed a ban on assault weapons while governor of Massachusetts, has backed off of the issue completely, stating in 2007 that he doesn’t “support any gun control legislation.” President Barack Obama, who often speaks of gun control while citing his hometown of Chicago, has actually loosened gun regulations during his presidency.
The next president will have many pressing issues to focus on, but gun control cannot be one that continues to be overlooked.
Current gun laws allow for firearms to be purchased at gun shows without a background check, and a ban on assault weapons — signed by former President Bill Clinton in 1994 — expired eight years ago, leaving semi-automatic firearms with militaristic features available for unrestricted purchase. Obama talked about reinstating this ban when running for office four years ago, but during his term as president he instead signed bills that allow guns to be brought into national parks and on Amtrak trains.
As the economy appears to slowly be gaining momentum, jobs remain a constant issue. Though the war in Iraq has officially ended, the topic of war is frequently discussed. Yet while gun violence continues to worsen, it is ignored.
Two weeks ago, three people were shot and killed and four injured in Brookfield, Wis. by a man with a handgun, purchased from a private owner. This summer saw the mass shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. and a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. And the country is just five years removed from the deadliest shooting spree in U.S. history, the shooting at Virginia Tech.
In the wake of these recent tragedies, there are many who continue to oppose greater gun control. The main argument against it holds that it violates the Second Amendment by taking away the right to bear arms. Gun control opponents note that gun laws won’t stop criminals from using guns and that people need guns to protect themselves.
Not every firearm-related tragedy would have been stopped with stricter regulations in place, but with stricter background checks and ammunition limits in place, many of them absolutely would have. New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts have instituted statewide assault weapons bans, and gun-related murders, assaults and robberies per 100,000 people are all significantly lower in these states, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
It is not to say that advocating for stricter gun control is to oppose the Second Amendment. No gun control advocates have seriously proposed banning all weapons. Instead, they want to implement laws that make it more difficult to obtain guns, such as changing gun show rules, where unlicensed sellers are allowed to sell guns next to licensed dealers, but are not required to conduct background checks. This is reform that could significantly reduce the number of gun-related deaths each year — and reform that makes sense.
Strong gun control advocates are not the only group that supports new legislation, either. Citing polls that were conducted in 2007 and 2008, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence notes that 87 percent of Americans support background checks on private sales of guns and 82 percent support limiting the sale of military-style assault weapons.
Public polling shows overwhelming support for stricter gun laws, yet neither candidate has taken notice. The issue of gun control is a controversial one, but controversy does not mean political candidates should shy away.
Though it might be unreasonable to expect the president-elect to put forward a specific solution offering an immediate plan to quell the problem of gun violence, it should not be unreasonable to expect the leader of the country to address a problem that results in more than 30,000 deaths per year.
Obama and Romney have talked about combating deaths as a result of health care, war and pollution. Whoever is elected on Nov. 6 must take action to prevent further deaths as a result of guns, too.
Mat Goldstein is an undeclared sophomore.