For every one U.S. soldier killed in Afghanistan during 11 years of war, at least 13 children were killed by guns in America. Thirteen children to one soldier, why isn't that headline news? This figure perfectly illustrates the need for sensible gun regulations. America's youths are being killed, in large part, because of the rampant availability of deadly weapons. You may be asking yourself why America cannot pass even modest legislation to make these weapons less available. The reason is simple. Politicians receive so much money from gun manufacturers, distributors, and lobbying groups that they refuse to enact sensible gun laws. It is time we start electing politicians who are on the correct side of this issue. Since teens are the group most at risk from gun violence, they should really care about regulating the availability of guns.
I think we can all agree that guns should be kept out of the hands of the mentally ill, people who are on the no-fly list, people convicted of gun related felonies, etc. Who would be unaffected by these kinds of regulations? Conscientious gun owners like hunters, most homeowners, and average citizens would not be affected. In fact, the majority of gun owners who fall into these categories favor such regulation. Still, the NRA and gun lobby have been able to stop even these modest common sense ideas.
Here are some sobering statistics:
1. 82 children under 5 died from guns in 2010, compared to 55 law enforcement officers.
2. Guns are the second leading cause of death among children and teens ages 1-19 and the number one cause among Black children and teens.
3. More children and teens die from guns every three days than died in the Newtown massacre.
4. Over an 11-year period more than 450 kids didn't make it to kindergarten because of a firearm related incident.
5. 77 percent of homicide victims ages 15-17 died from gun-related injuries. This age group is most at risk from gun violence.
6. At least 28,000 children and teens were killed by guns over an 11-year-period.
I wonder what 28,000 people looks like?
Given these heartbreaking statistics, you would think Americans would be jumping up and down trying to change gun laws. Seventy-seven percent of people in America believe there should be stronger gun control laws, so what is stopping us? Big money in politics, that's what.
We can't do anything because America is a country where most politicians care more about lobbyists' money than the welfare of the people. What do I mean by that? This brings us to the NRA. The NRA claims that gun manufacturers do not influence them. The biggest problem with that statement is that it is a blatant lie. Most of the largest donors to the NRA are gun manufacturers and many of the highest-ranking board members of the NRA are associated with gun manufacturing companies.
1. Midway USA (Gun Distributor): Over 5 million dollars to the NRA's lobbying arm alone.
2. Beretta USA Corporation (Gun Manufacturer): 1 million - 4.9 million dollars to the NRA's institute for legislative action and civil rights defense fund to work to overturn gun control laws.
3. Clayton Williams Energy, Inc. (Miscellaneous): 1 million - 4.9 million dollars to oil and natural gas exploration and production.
4. Pierce Bullet Seal Target Systems (Gun Accessory Manufacturer): 1 million - 4.9 million dollars to NRA.
5. LLC, Springfield Armory, Inc. (Manufacturer of Guns and Gun Accessories): 1 million - 4.9 million dollars to NRA.
Four of the NRA's top five contributors are involved with the gun industry. How does the NRA spend that money?
1. For Democrats: $24,262
2. Against Democrats: $15,200,018
3. For Republicans: $10,823,998
4. Against Republicans: $92,034
As you can see, the NRA definitely favors Republican lawmakers. Coincidentally, Republicans are by far the most significant obstacle to passing gun regulation of any kind. This may be the most obvious and blatant example of what money in our political system does. The vast majority of Americans have favored sensible gun control for years, yet congress has been unable to act.
What does all of this mean? Let's say, for instance, someone accepts one hundred thousand dollars from the NRA and then becomes president. Then a legislator drafts a bill that would make it illegal for Americans under eighteen, who are mentally unstable, to have access to a gun. I think most people would agree that this is a reasonable law, which should be passed. But, for one reason or another, the NRA does not want the bill to pass. Although it would make Americans safer, the NRA has political power over the candidate they donated money to. Sadly, there is a good chance that he or she would not support that bill for fear the NRA might not help fund their next campaign. There is only one presidential candidate who is not controlled by big money and that person is Bernie Sanders.
What are the sensible measures Bernie Sanders is recommending to help put an end to gun violence and protect America's youths?
1. We can expand background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill. This is an idea that over 80% of Americans agree with, even a majority of gun owners.
2. & 3. We can renew the assault weapons ban and end the sale of high capacity magazines - military-style tools created for the purpose of killing people as efficiently as possible.
4. Since 2004, over 2,000 people on the FBI's terrorist watch list have legally purchased guns in the United States. Let's close the "terror gap" and make sure known foreign and domestic terrorists are included on prohibited purchaser lists.
5. We can close loopholes in our laws that allow perpetrators of stalking and dating violence to buy guns. In the United States, the intended targets of a majority of our mass shootings are intimate partners or family members, and over 60% of victims are women and children. Indeed, a woman is five times more likely to die in a domestic violence incident when a gun is present.
6. We should close the loophole that allows prohibited purchasers to buy a gun without a completed background check after a three-day waiting period expires. Earlier this year, Dylann Roof shot and killed nine of our fellow Americans while they prayed in a historic church, simply because of the color of their skin. This act of terror was possible because of loopholes in our background check laws. Congress should act to ensure the standard for ALL gun purchases is a completed background check. No check - no sale.
7. It's time to pass federal gun trafficking laws. I support Kirsten Gillibrand's Hadiya Pendleton and Nyasia Pryear-Yard Gun Trafficking & Crime Prevention Act of 2015, which would "make gun trafficking a federal crime and provide tools to law enforcement to get illegal guns off the streets and away from criminal networks and street gangs."
8. It's time to strengthen penalties for straw purchasers who buy guns from licensed dealers on behalf of a prohibited purchaser.
9. We must authorize resources for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study and research the causes and effects of gun violence in the United States of America.
10. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are over 21,000 firearm suicides every year in the United States. It's time we expand and improve our mental health capabilities in this country so that people who need care can get care when they need it, regardless of their level of income.
There is no perfect answer, one side will always be disappointed, but we have to consider our priorities. Do we value freedom for anyone to purchase and own guns? Or do we value the lives of not only American youths but all Americans. The answer must lie somewhere in the middle. We have a democracy but, while the choices our politicians make are being affected by big money, it will be hard to make changes. We have to look at change in America from the bottom up. Change starts with us. Let's stop killing innocent American citizens. Let's pass sensible gun laws.