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The Gun Control "Debate"

- By Emily Chilton, Co-Editor-in-Chief -

Several times a year, an article from The Onion, the satirical news site, goes viral again. The headline reads: “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens.” Almost every time there is a significant mass shooting in the U.S., The Onion reposts this article. Each time it reappears, those who see it are forced to wrestle with the number of times it’s been posted, and the number of tragedies the posts represent. So why does the article continue to be relevant?

In short form, the article presents the two extreme sides of the gun control debate that flares every time there is a mass shooting (defined by the FBI as the shooting of four or more people, not including the attacker). One side argues that stricter gun control is necessary in order to stop continued mass shootings and gun deaths in the U.S. The other side argues that criminals will find ways to get guns and commit crimes regardless of laws, and that citizens not intending to commit crimes should be able to access guns for their own safety. A pattern has emerged in this debate following the past several mass shootings, particularly among lawmakers. It goes something like this:

(Many) Democratic Congresspeople: “We need to legislate gun control! Certain modifications and quick-firing rifles should be strictly limited. We should institute stricter background checks, especially at gun shows, and there should be a waiting period before getting your gun. Maybe you should even be required to take a gun safety class and pass a test before getting your gun.”

(Many) Republican Congresspeople: “We can’t believe that you’re trying to turn a tragedy into a political tool! It’s too soon after this horrific event to talk about a political agenda. Now isn’t the time.”

Democrats: “Well, when will it be the time?”

Republicans: “Sometime.”

Democrats: “We’re just trying to prevent another tragedy from happening in the future, and studies show–”

Republicans: “–that Americans like guns! So we’re keeping them. Okay, good talk.”

How long before Republican legislators start listening to their consciences instead of the National Rifle Association? How many Americans have to die before something is done?

Some statistics to ponder:

  • Twenty children and six adults died in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012.

  • Forty-nine people died in the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016.

  • Fifty-nine people died in the Las Vegas concert shooting in early October of this year.

  • This past Sunday, twenty-six people, including children, died in an attack on First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, TX.

From a recent Gallup poll documented at

  • 60% of Americans think that laws covering the sale of firearms should be more strict than they are now.

  • 51% think that new laws should be passed in addition to the current ones.

  • 96% favor background checks for all gun purchases; 75% favor a 30-day waiting period for gun purchases; 70% favor requiring all privately-owned guns to be registered with the police.

  • 54% are either very or somewhat dissatisfied with the nation’s current gun laws or policies.



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