On Valentine’s Day this year, a 19 year old walked into a school in Southern Florida and killed seventeen children. It was the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook, in 2012. It was the 208th school shooting in the USA since 2000, and the 146th since 2010. Since the turn of the millennium, over 250 children have been shot and killed while learning at school. All this has happened because of the easy access to firearms.
It is well documented just how simple it is to acquire a gun in the US. The Second Amendment reads ‘the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed’, and duly any attempt to prevent the ownership of guns has been denied. Solutions on this side of the pond to this issue generally boil down to changing the constitution, but the issue in the United States is this is extremely hard to do on any issue. The constitution has been amended just twenty-seven times in its history, and this is including the ten in the Bill of Rights, added all at once right after the constitution was ratified, as well as the 18th and 21st amendments that first ratified and then removed prohibition. It is simply extremely difficult to change the document, and it is especially hard changing any of the first ten amendments, the aforementioned Bill of Rights. These are the cornerstones of American liberties, and cover the basic human rights. The 1st Amendment guarantees free religion and free speech. The 5th through to the 8th establish every citizen’s rights in the justice system. The 10th prevents government from overstepping their boundaries. Editing any of these is extremely difficult. Removing them is essentially impossible.
However, this does not mean that issues regarding firearms are untouchable, or even that legally they should be. The constitution is rigid, but the interpretation is not entirely inflexible. For an instance, the 1st Amendment guarantees free speech at all times except times that are unreasonable; you can’t shout ‘fire’ in a crowded building, for example. As such, there is no good reason as to why guns should not be limited at times when it is unreasonable. Surely, one of those situations is when a person is not mentally healthy. Or when they do not know how to store guns correctly, or when they hold it inappropriately, or when they hurt anybody at all. Legal guns are manageable, and exist in a multitude of countries. Legal guns with so few restrictions is simply dangerous, and it is showing.
Opponents to this issue will raise the same old arguments. They will point to the constitution and their liberties, and argue that restricting guns restricts their freedom. But this has gone beyond that now. How many more people have to die? How many more children have to be shot whilst cowering in their classrooms, the very place we send them to learn and be safe? It was too many deaths in 1999 after Columbine. Now the death count is near unbelievable. The NRA will continue to lobby, and politicians will continue to bend to their will while this current Republican government is likely to change nothing, especially after President Trump suggesting arming teachers as to prevent school shootings. However, this pressure must continue to be sustained. This has to change, and someday it will. The survivors of the Florida attack are doing their part with their March on Washington; we can only hope the rest of the country follows suit. This simply cannot keep happening.