By Grace Lewis || Staff Writer
72 hours. It is a weird amount of time. Enough to power read through a good book or watch a few seasons of your favorite shows, if you have the energy to stay up that long. It is also enough time for the country of New Zealand to ban assault rifles and high-capacity magazines after the terrorist attacks that occurred in Christchurch which claimed the lives of 50 people on March 15th, 2019. It only took 72 hours, an amount of time that we measure in hours compared to days, or even years. The gun laws in that country changed astoundingly fast, and that — in my opinion — is how it should be. When we are faced with these senseless tragedies, one of the most important aspects is how we react. New Zealand took the measures to prevent another massacre occurring again. By doing this New Zealand has set an example for the rest of the world, but they aren’t the first ones to do so.
In 1996 in Australia, 35 people were killed in what is now known as the Port Arthur Massacre. After this occurred things radically changed; the entirety of Australia agreed to ban semi-automatic and automatic rifles and shotguns. The government created hurdles for people if they wanted to own a weapon, needing a “justifiable reason”, a thorough background check, and have to wait 28 days after purchase to finally get a hold of the weapon. This action massively reduced mass shootings as well as homicides and suicide (BBC). And while Australia is just one example, So the question is not if gun laws work, it’s the process of getting them enacted. In about a month, April 20th will mark the 20 year anniversary since the Columbine Massacre that occurred in 1999 in Colorado. The particular occurrence of Columbine shocked everyone and turned everything upside down, 15 people were dead in a place that was supposed to be a safe space of learning and support. Things like the Columbine Massacre and school shootings with so many victims didn’t happen — at least not often. The previous mass school shooting which claimed so many lives was at the University of Texas in 1966, which claimed the lives of 18 people. The time spread between these two events was huge, lulling the public into a false sense of security that these things don’t happen that often, so there was really no reason to worry. However, 110 mass shootings have occurred since Columbine (Mother Jones). The curve of mass shootings in our country’s history has been exponential. People are dying and our government isn’t doing anything about it, simply “thoughts and prayers” which in actuality will never accomplish anything.
Gun laws work, and taking the steps to prevent tragedies as New Zealand, Australia, and other countries have done stop gun violence from escalating. And while the issue of guns lies deeply within the United States’ history, the simple fact is that gun violence is rising, people are being killed, and there are things that can be done, it’s just stepping up and doing said things. The Federal Assault Weapons Ban that was enacted in 1994 by President Bill Clinton. During the time when the ban was in place, mass gun violence was down by 37% and the numbers of people dying fell 43% (The Washington Post). The ban expired in 2004 but it did provide sufficient evidence that getting rid of weapons works as saving lives. Too many people are dying, too many people are being hurt, too many people are losing their family and friends, the time for change isn’t just starting, it’s been here.
First year Grace Lewis is a Staff Writer. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.