OPINION: Stricter Gun Laws Needed to Stop Senseless Deaths

Gun violence affects lives daily, and one day it could be yours. I am someone who has lost a friend due to senseless gun violence. Something needs to change, not only for our future generations, but so that you or someone you love will not be the next tragedy of such violence. 

 From 2019-21 there was a 50 percent increase in gun deaths among children under 18, according to Erica Panley at Pew Research Center. Karhlyle (“Loud”) Hopkins , my friend, was shot and killed last week when walking with his friend (because he was a minor, many details are not being released at this time). He was 17 and had just graduated from Mountaineer Challenge Academy in West Virginia. He was a boy who needed more opportunity to change. Unfortunately, his life will not be the last taken by a person with a gun.

Karhlyle “Loud” Hopkins, 17, was killed by gunfire last week.

Dwayne Richardson was a senior in my freshman year and attended school with me in 2021. He was an upcoming basketball star whose smile impacted everyone he was around. Unfortunately his life was cut short on May 2, 2021, when he was shot when his killer mistook him for someone else, but that’s all it takes. That decision was made in a matter of seconds, and now an innocent kid is dead. This will only keep happening unless more precautions are pinned against the use of guns.

High School Senior Dwayne Richardson was shot in 2021 in a case of mistaken identity.

Guns kill, critically wound, and injure an average of over 320 people daily. An estimated 1 out of 157 people will be a victim of gun violence at some point in their life, according to The National Institution for Justice. We should put gun control prevention to use to stop harm to others instead of ignoring or pushing them aside. 

First, there should be universal background checks to ensure that the buyer has proper intentions. In 1995 a Connecticut Law prohibited gun buyers from purchasing guns without permits, and to get a permit a background check is required. Researchers found that this established rule caused a 40 percent decline in gun homicides and a 15 percent drop in suicides.

 Second, a person buying a gun for the first time should also require a psychological evaluation, especially teens. All blame should not be put on firearms – but on the person behind them, as well. This is why psychological evaluations could prevent tragedies, just like background checks. Of course, these evaluations won’t stop all violence, but it most definitely could prevent several tragedies.  According to a Mental Health America article on gun violence and mental illness, a vast majority of those suffering from mental illness are not violent; over 58 percent of gun deaths are from suicide. A mental health evaluation could help someone who feels that it’s impossible to overcome their situation and even save their life. More than half of mass shooters have experienced personal trauma.  If it is possible to notice a crisis within someone, why not help them before they start a mass crisis of their own?

Third, assault weapons, specifically semi-automatic firearms, should be banned everywhere except for in the military and law enforcement. The most a person needs for protection is a handgun or shotgun when hunting. The most used gun in mass shootings is the AR-15. The AR-15 is designed to be a military-use firearm designed for combat, yet over 11 million Americans own this weapon. The second most used guns are handguns. Handguns are reliable for self-defense, but most of the time they are used in senseless violence and killing. An ideal way to prevent so many deaths due to handguns is to limit the production of high-capacity magazines or only sell these mags to military and law enforcement. Businesses are another exception. Because not all shops and businesses have security for protection, a shotgun or handgun should be placed within the reach of a manager or owner in the case where there could be an active shooter. Of course, the people who would be trusted to use these weapons would be required to attend shooting classes and have a permit as well as a mental evaluation.

Another issue are loopholes. Loopholes are used by gun buyers and sellers and provide a way for minors or those without a gun permit to purchase illegal firearms without any questions at places such as gun shows. 

According to data acquired by the National Institution of Justice, only 36 percent of mass shooters legally purchased the weapons used in killing sprees; the remaining are stolen or are illegal. These loopholes need to be cleared out and parents should put such weapons in places away from children. 

Some say too much gun control violates the Second Amendment, which gives people the right to bear arms. However, this was established during a time when gun violence was not as prominent. Many lives can be saved and trauma can be avoided by rewriting these laws. People have changed over time, and it’s time some of our history and past regulations change too.