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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Federal enforcement of regulations only way to solve country’s gun violence

Only 13 days into the new year, America has already faced 426 deaths and 889 injuries from our most troubled enemy: guns. In Chicago alone, there have been 120 shootings, resulting in 19 deaths. What is surprising about this level of gun violence in the country? Sadly, nothing at all.

We are becoming so desensitized to gun violence that news bringing statistics like these have become “just another headline.” For years, the U.S. has been trying to reconcile the seemingly partisan issue of gun violence, but we can’t keep pretending that it will magically fix itself. This is not about pleasing the political right or left, but rather about fixing the fact that gun violence on this level doesn’t happen in any other advanced country.

Our country is in need of a safety measure like a universal background check, in conjunction with a ban on the private ownership of firearms like shotguns, rifles and semi-automatics, similar to the gun control laws that were passed in Australia.

These measures need to be not only funded by Congress but also federally enforced. President Obama is doing what he can “within [his] legal authority” to end the violence, but his policies, as seen in the past, are unable to be truly federally implemented.

In Australia, though, a federal enforcement of a ban on semi-automatics and pump-action shotguns has eradicated the mass shootings that had been growing prior to the gun control. Australia had 13 mass shootings from 1978 to 1979, but since then, it has had none. The country’s gun control legislation has also brought about the decline of homicide by 50 to 60 percent as well as a drop in suicide rates. Dissenters in America who claim that gun control will never work need only look at Australia to see how hollow their arguments are.

Still, despite the desperate pleas from both the people and Obama himself, every suggestion to tighten sales of firearms is shot down by the Congressional allies of the National Rifle Association. The NRA no longer serves to protect of the sport of hunting or even the  people.

Instead, the organization’s eyes are only on the prize: the annual $12 billion raked in for sales of firearms at the cost of thousands of lives. The NRA answers to gun manufacturers and ammunition industrialists but never to the American families who fall victim to gun violence.

It’s absurd to expect effective gun control when our leaders can only suggest hollow resolutions without the means to properly enforce them. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which is responsible for ensuring that malefactors and the mentally ill cannot purchase a firearm, was created two decades ago, and it still lacks the legal federal enforcement to make it effective.

Congress has failed to provide enough funds for the NICS, supplying only 5.3 percent of the total authorized amount of funds from 2009 to 2015. In addition, no state is under any obligation to report data to the NICS; for example, Maryland has submitted only 58 mental health records to the NICS database since 1999.

Fortunately, $500 million is supposedly going to increasing access to mental health care, lifting any legal barriers to reporting necessary information to the NCIS. But we have a long way to go before we see any of the effects of these orders.

It is terrifyingly easy for criminals to acquire guns in a legal fashion from a lesser-regulated state, and then privately own that firearm in a supposedly gun-free state. Other situations find criminals illegally obtaining their supply from a licensed friend, or stealing them from law-abiding citizens with legally purchased guns. Regardless, the system has too many loopholes to be even close to functional.

It is easy to dismiss all of these situations as hypotheticals. But the proof of this reality and its effects are endless: San Bernardino, Colorado Springs, Umpqua College, Sandy Hook. The list goes on.

The constant battle between politicians is not going to solve our problems. In order to truly crack down on America’s gun violence, we need to follow Australia’s lead and advocate  for stricter gun control legislation that will secure the safety of every family.

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