Students take multifaceted stance against gun violence

Photo credit: Genessa Gutzait • The Sentry

Mass Shootings In America Call For Action

In the wake of another mass school shooting, students across the country are refusing to remain silent. On Valentine’s Day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida, 17 children and teachers had their lives extinguished by a disturbed former student of the school wielding an AR-15. The students who survived this most recent assault have protested, met with government officials, and even spoke out on networks like CNN in hopes to advocate for their slain peers.

Photo credit: Genessa Gutzait • The Sentry

A lightweight, magazine-fed, gas-operated, semi-automatic rifle, the AR-15 has been the weapon of choice for many mass shooters, such as Las Vegas, Orlando, Newtown, San Bernardino, Sutherland Springs, Aurora, and many others. Outside of mass shootings, the AR-15 is used for hunting, particularly because “It creates the smallest entry point, which preserves the pelt of an animal when you’re hunting,” Rocco Sant, a freshman architecture major, said. Jonathan Whitson, a sophomore marketing major at CU Denver, added, “The reason why it’s used for hunting is because you have a target that is moving 10 to 15 miles per hour.” An AR-15 can fire up to 180 rounds per minute.

A background check is required in order to legally obtain a gun; however, juvenile records are sealed from public access, and the only conviction that bars one from owning a gun is a felony. So a “rigorous” background check would not have stopped the Florida shooter, since background checks do not reveal the criminal background of someone before the age of 18—let alone expulsion from a high school, which is not a crime in and of itself.

“The people don’t work for the government, the government works for the people,” said Mason Steiner, who is the president of libertarian-leaning student club Turning Point and a sophomore communications major. “The government’s first job is to protect the people. And if guns are in the hands of bad people, well, the government has some role in that,” he said. Steiner himself survived a school shooting in 2013 that took place at Arapahoe high school, where he was a student at the time.

President Trump suggested increasing restrictions against those with mental illnesses. The Republican-controlled House voted in February 2017 to overturn an initiative that would have made it harder for people suffering from a mental illness to buy a gun. The Obama-era regulation, which was enacted after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, would have required the Social Security Administration to send records of beneficiaries with severe mental disabilities to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System. However, the regulation would have failed to stop the shooting that claimed 49 lives in Las Vegas last year or the Orlando shooting at Pulse Nightclub that claimed 50 lives in 2016.

Similar suggestions have included banning bump stocks, which increase the rapid-firing ability of semi-automatic weapons. The shooters in Parkland, Sutherland Springs, and Newtown—as well as numerous others—did not use a bump stock.

Another suggestion by President Trump and many other legislators is to arm teachers with guns. However, some citizens have expressed concerns regarding this strategy. “The most training [teachers] have is hiding in a corner of a room,” Whitson said. “So if we had actually trained armed guards in our schools, they could help protect the students. I mean, we have a high rate of unemployed veterans who already have the training to handle these weapons—we shouldn’t arm the teachers,” Whitson, who is a veteran, said.

“When politicians speak, it’s noise,” Sant said. “It’s what they do that counts.”

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