This past week, a student entered Umpqua Community College in Oregon and killed ten students. Like many other shooters before him, he struggled with mental health problems. Similar to the Newtown, Virginia Tech and Columbine shooters, he got his hands on guns when he really shouldn’t have, which is something that could easily have been prevented. Furthermore, two more shootings have taken place this week at college campuses in Arizona and Texas.
The United States has abysmal gun violence rates. According to Humanosphere, the United States has similar gun violence death rates to those of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq and Pakistan, at 4.5 deaths by firearm per 100,000 people.
In the United States, shootings have occurred on average once every week since 2013, according to Everytown research. The shootings occurred in almost every level of school, from elementary schools like Newtown Elementary to colleges like Virginia Tech.
Instances of gun violence in schools have also been reported in the areas near UMBC. In March 2014 at McDaniel College, “shots were fired at the dorm through the second floor lobby window,” according to the Baltimore Sun. Another shooting occurred at Perry Hall High School in Eastern Baltimore County in 2012, where a student was shot.
The sheer violence and deaths result from firearms calls for more restrictions. A law similar to Australia’s restrictions against assault weapons, which was enacted in 1996, would be a good start. The law banned anyone from buying or owning semi-automatic and automatic weapons. According to the Washington Post, in the decade the law was enforced, Australia’s firearm homicide rate fell by 59 percent, and its firearm suicide rate fell by 65 percent
Universal background checks would also be an effective deterrent to the gun homicide rate. In 1994, President Clinton enacted the Brady Act, which required background checks for anyone purchasing a gun from federally licensed dealers. According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, this enactment dropped gun murders 32 percent from 1993 to 2006.
The states that have implemented universal background checks have had significant success in reducing gun violence rates as well. States with more expansive background checks experience 48 percent fewer gun trafficking incidents, 38 percent less deaths of women shot by their partners and 17 percent fewer guns involved in aggravated assaults.
The United States needs to prioritize making these effective gun violence prevention strategies into law. Knowing that the Brady Act and the ban on assault weapons in Australia worked extremely well should be incentive enough for the US government to conduct research on the matter, and hopefully strengthen or implement similar laws.