The emotionally charged and as yet unresolved debate over the status of guns in our nation has been brought to the forefront once again in the wake of a recent shooting at a Washington high school. With the mounting toll of gun violence, the question of whether meaningful action on the part of state and national legislatures can or will be taken remains to be seen.
The shooting took place last Friday at Marysville-Pilchuck High School in suburban Seattle when a student opened fire on several students, killing one and wounding four before turning the gun on himself. According to witnesses and authorities, freshman athlete and homecoming prince Jaylen Fryberg entered the school cafeteria and pulled a gun on three female students and two male students. Pandemonium subsequently ensued as hundreds of students fled the school in terror, fearing for their own safety.
Fryberg, a well-liked and esteemed peer and member of a prominent family within the Tulalip Tribes, was allegedly angered by a romantic relationship prior to the shooting, prompting him to target the girl who refused him and several others close to him. The community has been left reeling in the aftermath of the shooting, with students and families questioning how such a tragedy could have transpired.
In the state of Massachusetts, the current status of gun legislature is promising as compared to much of the country. Boston governor Deval Patrick signed comprehensive legislation aimed at reducing gun violence in Massachusetts in August, establishing vital common sense preventative measures.
The bill received support from both gun control advocacy groups as well as the Massachusetts Gun Owners Action League and includes measures such as a mechanism by which police can petition courts to deny firearm identification, authorization of licensed gun dealers to access to criminal records of potential buyers, increased fines for failing to report lost or stolen guns, requirement of licensing authorities to track any firearms used in committing a crime and the use of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
By contrast, despite the disturbing upward trend in mass shootings in past years, Congress has continually failed to pass gun control legislation that the vast majority of the country supports.
According to the Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence, “nine out of 10 Americans agree that we should have universal backgrounds checks, including three out of four NRA members.” The statistics alone speak volumes—there have been 10,305 gun related deaths in this year alone, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
Yet the presence of guns in America is one not likely to subside—some 280 to 300 million guns are privately and legally owned by citizens, a saturation so high that it seems any measures to restrict ownership would be too little, too late. As was shown following the devastating shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, gun control was much easier said than done, as Congress struck down President Obama’s plans for common sense gun control legislature.
While tragedies like the one in Washington appear in the news all too frequently and Americans lament the senseless loss of life, eventually rage and sadness are replaced by numbness and a return to daily life—it seems that the American public has become increasingly desensitized to the omnipresence of gun violence.
In the aftershock of the shooting and others of its kind in recent years, calls for action and inquiries into the nature of gun violence are once again revisited. Especially in light of the events at Marysville-Pilchuck, the United States must combat the rise of mass shootings and gun-related deaths while preserving individual freedoms for its citizens.