Earlier this month, a student at Purdue University opened fire on campus, fatally wounding a fellow student, according to The New York Times. A mere three days later, a man was charged with shooting a student at South Carolina State University. Despite the frequency of these tragic events, however, the discussion surrounding them is much of the same. Rather than brush off these shootings as common occurrences, society must address the lack of safeguards to prevent these atrocities.
For the past several years, gun control has been a contentious issue. Recent shootings in Aurora, Colo., Newtown, Conn., Purdue University and now South Carolina State University have shown how the gun control discussion has reached a stasis and that debate must shift from one of abstract ideology to one of substantial change. Gridlock on both sides of the argument has stagnated necessary and rational change.
A common platitude among gun owners is that “Uncle Sam” wants to take guns away. Rally cries of the Second Amendment and Big Brother clamping down on civil liberties have been digressions in the discourse of gun control. The idea that implementing stricter background checks and eliminating loopholes will lead to the end of guns as we know it is a slippery slope. There is no call to eliminate guns altogether, but rather there are calls to institute logical restrictions and protocol that give citizens the right to bear arms while also protecting the population as a whole.
Some assert that restricting gun ownership takes aim at the wrong cause, arguing that “guns do not kill people, people kill people.” This is true. Yet by the same token, cars do not kill people, drunk drivers do, and that is why we have safety measures in place that limit blood alcohol content levels, enforce a drinking age and raise penalties for breaking such laws. The public fully supports such measures because of a shared understanding that these deaths at the hands of drunk drivers can be preventable. Since 1973, drunk-driving and related deaths have dropped two-thirds. If responsible regulations helped prevent deaths on the road, then there is no reason they cannot apply to gun control.
Universities must take steps in order to prevent such atrocities. After the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University shooting in 2007, most campuses across the country adopted alert systems to notify students and faculty of emergencies. Purdue has put such a safeguard in place and should be applauded for its swift reaction to the event — but that alone won’t solve the problem. Rather, universal preventative legislation must be put in place for all universities.
If the 11,419 gun-related deaths last year are not enough of a compelling argument to enact change, then consider the shooting at Purdue. A shooting at a large research university really hits home. If such a tragedy could occur on a college campus such as Purdue, what’s to say it couldn’t strike other campuses?
Restrictions on the sale of ammunition can help prevent frequent shootings. An assault rifles ban would eliminate any and all assault rifles. Why would someone need a weapon that can cause an absurd amount of damage and harm? More frequent and strict background checks can help prevent putting guns in the wrong hands. Loopholes at gun shows and having rifles available online at shooting ranges are among a series of steps that can be taken that will over time help stem the damages of gun violence. As people at Purdue tragically learned, a lack of basic mechanisms that prevent the presence of guns in locations such as a college campus can result in unnecessary death.
The consequences to public safety caused by guns should not be taken lightly. The Second Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms for a well-regulated militia. Citizens have the right to own guns, but common sense measures need to be in place that will help prevent deaths and mass carnage.
Athanasius Georgy is a freshman majoring in biological sciences.