On March 8, 1998, my brother, Henry Lee Baber III, was shot 14 times by an unknown suspect and died instantly in Los Angeles. He left behind a devastated mother, child, brother, twin sister, and another sister who uses his tragedy to give a sense of urgency about why gun control needs to become next on the agenda for reforming current gun policy. On August 31, 2013, Londyn Samuels, 13 months old, was shot in the chest in Central City section of New Orleans. On September 1, 2013, Antiq Harris, 16 months, was killed in Brooklyn as his parents pushed him in his stroller. On September 2, 2013, 11-year-old Arabian Gayles was killed while she was slept. On September 3, 2013, 16-year-old, Maurice Knowles was sitting on the porch of his home and was killed in Chicago. On September 4, 2013, 7-year-old Desiree Macias was struck in the back of the head while sitting in the car in Los Angeles. Former NRA President Charlton Heston said, “The 30,000 gun-related deaths with firearms in the United States every year are a small price to pay to guarantee freedom.”
Multiple deaths and an intensifying violent culture have led many to conclude that we need increased gun control. However, many conservative politicians and the gun industry argue that the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution prohibits gun control. The amendment states: a well-regulated militia, necessary being to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
The Second Amendment grants the right to bear arms, but originally was founded to protect citizens from a tyrannical government and British rule; not against other citizens. Therefore, gun control is not only a pressing and urgent policy matter; it does not violate the Second Amendment.
In the United States, guns are categorized as either handguns or firearm guns. Handguns include pistols and revolvers, while firearms include long guns, rifles, semi-automatic, and automatic weapons. In the United States, 33 states do not require a background check to sell either handguns or firearms; 6 states require background checks on all guns; 3 states require background checks only on handguns; and 7 States requires purchasers to obtain a permit and a background check to buy only a handgun. This means 88 percent of the states lack comprehensive gun control laws, which poses a huge social challenge to reducing violence in our communities.
Moreover, the laws that do exist can be circumvented through two loopholes. First, guns purchased at gun shows or online do not require a background check. Second, in the states that only require a background check for handguns, firearms can be purchased without a background check. This second loophole came about because firearms were historically only intended for military use. Today, people exploit these loopholes to regularly purchase guns without a background check, which prevents monitoring who purchases guns. When a background check is not conducted, people who have previously committed violent crimes can continue to arm themselves. In order to solve this problem, we must close these loopholes. Guns specifically made for mass killings in military warfare should not be available to civilians.
If the United States took extra measures to increase gun control laws, communities would see a decrease in the violence and homicides by gun violence. In China, there are 1.3 billion people compared to the United States 315 million people. China has strict gun control laws, and homicides caused by guns in China stands at 1.1 per every 100,000 people, while the United States stands at a repulsive 4.6 per every 100,000 people. If China, with 985 million more people than the United States, can have a reduced homicide rate through the legislation of strict gun control laws, the United States can make an effort to try to eradicate the death by the use of guns. To do this, the U.S. must strengthen existing gun control laws federally, as opposed to allowing states to regulate gun control.
What needs to be done?
•Legislation needs to be passed federally. Reinstating acts like the Federal Assault Weapons Ban and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, H.R. 3355 will sanction the federal government to impose regulation on gun control, as opposed to allowing state governments to legislate laws.
•Guns and ammunition need to be banned from being sold online because that creates a loophole where a background check is not necessary to purchase them. Likewise, gun shows and firearm sales should require background checks in all states.
•Random searches for the confiscation of illegal guns need to occur, and companies need to be held accountable for the number of guns they sell, and who they sell them to.
•In addition, we as a community and as a society need to become more civically engaged in pressuring our representatives to make a change.
The issue of violence by the use of guns will not end overnight, but stricter gun control laws will ease the amount of senseless deaths. We as citizens cannot allow innocent people, like 20 young children or my brother, or toddlers riding in their strollers to die in the name of so-called “freedom” If a reform in gun control policy does not occur, the rate of people killed will continue to increase. People’s lives are at stake when it comes to gun control policy. We must act now. It is up to the citizens to take a stance, and demand a sense of hope for the betterment of our future. If we cannot protect our people by passing legislation to demand laws to create a safer environment, we are not giving them the true essence of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.