The right to bear arms

Katie Woodruff, news editor

According to USA Today, the U.S. has experienced 200 mass shootings in the past nine years, and they occur more than the government reports. Seventy-seven percent of mass killings in the U.S. were caused by guns, and nearly one-third of the victims were under the age of 18.

The federal government is trying to create tighter gun laws, but some states, like Missouri, have less restrictions when buying a gun. A buyer must be at least 18 at the time of buying a gun and no permit is required. Other states like California require all firearm sales to go through a licensed gun dealer and there is no provision in its state constitution that explicitly guarantees an individual the right to keep and bear arms.

“I believe the government should stay away from people,” Emilee Autry, sophomore, said. “I think it’s 100 percent okay for people to own guns, it’s a part of our Constitution and I don’t like how the government is trying to change [a law] that we have abided by for years.”

Even though President Barack Obama proposed increasing gun control laws after the Newtown, CT shooting, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported that mass shootings occur every two weeks. According to USA Today, poor reporting by local police officers and other tragedies that did not meet the FBI’s standard were not included in this data set. Poor reporting and excluded cases leave the FBI with a 57 percent accuracy rate.

The FBI collects homicide data from police across the U.S. to create their data. Many police departments across the nation do not submit all their crimes, or they mislabel them according to USA Today. The District of Columbia, Florida and Nebraska do not submit homicide data to the FBI at all.

Because all cases are not reported, a number of mass shootings are not included in the FBI’s data. One missing case was the fatal shooting of 10 people in Samson, Alabama in 2009. Michael K. McLendon went on a 12-mile shooting spree, where he shot and killed his mother, five people on the front porch of his uncle’s house and four other family members and strangers.

The majority, 53 percent according to USA Today, of mass killings reported are family-related, just like the mass shooting in Samson. About 57 percent of victims knew the murderer, even if they were not the main target according to USA Today. Fifty-seven percent of victims had a relationship with their killer.

As the causes of many of the mass shooting cases seem to be random, underlying factors can be found through investigations. A break-up is the trigger for one in four mass killings that do not involve strangers, gangs or a robbery gone wrong or the holidays, financial stress and impulsive behavior are also common cause, according to USA Today.

Not all mass murders fall under the category these few causes. Charles Lee “Cookie” Thornton went on a shooting rampage at Kirkwood City Hall that killed Tom Ballman and William Biggs, police officers, Connie Karr, councilwoman, Michael Lynch, councilman, and Ken Yost, public works director on Feb. 7, 2008.

According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, over 30,000 die from gun violence and 11,000 people are murdered every year. Mike Swoboda, former Kirkwood mayor, died seven months after the attack after being shot twice on Sept. 6, 2008. According to CBS News, friends and relatives Thornton had a long-standing feud with the city, and he lost a federal free-speech lawsuit against Kirkwood a few days earlier.

Mass shootings usually involve a failed safety net according to USA Today. Ineffective protective orders, gaps in the mental health system, immigration bureaucracy and other holes have been seen in many cases. While the U.S. has tried and failed to pass new gun control laws, they have slowed the spread of American made guns across the world since the public shooting in Newtown according to The Washington Post.

“I think gun laws should be more strict because I’ve seen countries, like Australia, who have a lot less problems with guns because they have the laws restricting them” Jordan Zimmerman, junior, said. “Background checks for purchasing any type of gun [should be necessary] and automatic weapons should be removed from commercial sellers.”