Editorial: An American Problem

In the United States, guns symbolize autonomy and individuality. That is, the importance of guns to American culture is due in large part to the feeling of freedom and empowerment they bring. But symbols are worth less than lives. Americans need to ask if a right to bear arms is worth the price we pay.

Last week, nine students were killed and nine more were injured at Umpqua Community College by a gunman. According to data compiled by the crowd- sourced site Mass Shooting Tracker, the shooting was the 994th such incident (shooting of four or more individuals) in 1,004 days. This means that, on average, there is a mass shooting in America every day. This violence is not unavoidable. No other advanced country in the world has had an experience with mass shootings like that of America. In a newly released quantitative analysis of public mass shooting around the world between 1966-2012, Adam Lankford, an associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Alabama, found that nearly “one third” of the world’s mass shootings have occurred in the United States. His findings can be added to the ever growing heap of evidence suggesting that there is a correlation between the availability of guns and the major public assaults that have become a part of life in America.

The few useful services guns provide (hunting, or killing varmints in rural areas) can be preserved even if the nation only tightens its restriction of gun ownership to the degree that, say, Canada has. There, gun laws prohibit the use of certain, more lethal (e.g. automatic) guns—no such law exists in the U.S. at the Federal level.

The argument that guns should not be subject to increased regulation and restricted access, simultaneously argues that the victims of the UCC shooting are worth losing in order to protect gun laws as they presently exist. To quote Adam Gopnick, a writer for the New Yorker, “Since the cure is known for certain, those who refuse it can only have decided that they enjoy the disease.”