Recent gun violence calls for change

Photo credit: Rewon Shimray

We have a gun violence problem in this country –– we think that is an undeniable fact. Two of the five most deadly mass shootings in modern U.S. history have happened this year. Three of the top five mass shootings in modern U.S. history have occurred in the last 17 months. There is a reason why the Onion article titled “No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens,” circulates so often.

Mass shootings have risen dramatically since the Columbine High School shooting in 1999. A report released by the FBI in 2014 found that, excluding shootings tied to domestic violence or gangs, the years 2007 to 2013 averaged 16.4 mass shootings a year, up from 6.4 shootings a year from 2000 to 2006.

As if the mass shootings in our country aren’t enough, we have a gun violence epidemic in urban areas. Last week, Chicago logged its 600th homicide. Last year, Chicago had 762 homicides –– before that, a U.S. city hadn’t hit 600 homicides a year since Chicago in 2003.

How can people say we live in the “greatest country in the world” when we’re afraid to do normal things? If we can’t go to school, the movies, a concert or church without fear of being shot, how free are we really? Speaking of Chicago, the city has what they call “safe passage ways” to and from several schools. The program was designed to prevent gun violence near schools and protect children on their way to and from school. Safe passage way volunteers line the blocks where children walk to and from school wearing neon colored shirts or vests to show the gang members that someone is watching, and that someone will call the police if they hear or see gunshots. The fear of being shot is an everyday reality for many kids in Chicago. We don’t think it should be or needs to be like this.

Now, we know that many people will use Chicago to say “but the city has some of the strictest gun laws in the country and still has such high violence so clearly gun control doesn’t work.” While we are not convinced this argument is sound on its own anyway, we are proposing some gun control legislation that Chicago doesn’t have.

We propose a prohibition on abusers owning guns. If someone has been convicted of any type of violent abuse they should not be allowed to own deadly weapons like guns. We also are advocates for opening product liability and negligence law against gun manufacturers/sellers.

Product liability laws are the reason we have “caution: hot beverage” warnings on coffee cups, why we don’t see commercials for cigarettes and why there are safety warnings on medicines, alcohol, cars and so many other products. If these products don’t have the proper safety warnings consumers can sue the manufacturer for harm caused by their products. All consumer product manufacturers are required to ensure that their products are free of design defects that don’t threaten public safety.

Guns, however, are not bound by these same product liability and negligence laws. In 2005, Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), granting the gun industry immunity in state and federal court from civil liability in most negligence and products liability actions.

When the government is worried that you might use those packages of pseudoephedrine to cook meth, it’s not unreasonable to ask someone why they need to buy an AR-15, or a massive amount of bullets or 10 handguns in one sitting.

We have lost too many people to senseless gun violence to stand idly by and do nothing –– it is time to declare a state of emergency in this country and it is time for action.