Established 1826 — Oldest College Newspaper West of the Alleghenies

The Gun: Arming criminals with preventable weapons

The following piece, written by the editorial editors, reflects the majority opinion of the editorial board.

This is the second in a series of editorials that will investigate the recurring problem of mass shootings throughout the United States.

On Dec. 6, 1989, a disgruntled student named Mark Lépine walked into a university classroom at the École Polytechnique in Montreal, Canada with a semi-automatic rifle and killed 14 female engineering students. The incident generated Canada's 1995 Firearms Act, which required license and registration for all rifles and shotguns and banned more than half of all registered guns. Gun violence in Canada dropped by more than 50 percent.

In April 1996, Martin Bryant walked into a popular tourist site in Port Arthur, Australia and killed 35 people with a semi-automatic rifle. This mass shooting, the worst in Australia's history, sparked the nation's conservative government to amend the country's gun laws, prohibiting automatic and semi-automatic assault rifles, stiffening licensing and instituting a temporary gun buyback program. There have been no gun-related mass killings in Australia since.

In Littleton, Colorado, on April 20, 1998, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened fire throughout Columbine High School and killed 39 fellow students before committing suicide.

The public and media erupted in the days and weeks following the mass shooting, but 17 years, 44 heavily publicized mass shootings and 602 deaths later, the United States has made no further advancements on gun control. The United States has done nothing, and that is not good enough.

Americans own an outlandish number of guns. The United States, which makes up only 5 percent of the global population, leads the developed world in civilian gun ownership, with over 42 percent of the total number of civilian-owned guns on the entire planet.

The United States also leads the world's developed countries in gun violence with four times the amount of homicides by firearms than the next country on the list - Switzerland.

One recurring argument that pro-gun politicians like to flaunt is that two of the jurisdictions with the strictest gun laws - Chicago and Washington, D.C. - have the highest rates of murder and crime.

This is an act of partisan amnesia. These cities have long histories of poverty and gang fighting caused by histories of geographic, systemic racism. Politicians who pretend otherwise are kidding themselves. They are treating the result of the problem, not addressing what produced that problem in the first place (them). In this way, guns are just a small part of a larger issue.

Another of the predominant arguments against gun control legislation is that the majority of guns used in mass shootings were legally owned, so further legislation would do little to prevent shootings. In a nutshell, if somebody is determined to shoot up a school or a church, they will.

In 1995, Connecticut implemented a law requiring people buying firearms to apply for a license with the local police. The permit process included a background check and eight hours of gun safety training. In the following 10 years until 2005, Connecticut saw a 40 percent drop in gun deaths.

In contrast, Missouri saw a 23 percent increase in gun deaths after it repealed its permit-to-purchase law in 2007.

Much of the debate around guns has less to do with facts and more to due with culture, interest and a preconceived interpretation of the Second Amendment.

For many people, owning a gun is a hobby. They own guns because they have an interest in their history and a passion for living off the land.

For some, including most members of our Editorial Board, a world with one gun is a world with too many. The United States would be better off without them; however, we understand that this is unrealistic thinking.

The federal government needs to implement laws similar to Australia, Canada and the state of Connecticut - licenses, safety training, bans on certain semi-automatic weapons and deeper background checks.

Stricter gun control is all the more crucial considering the amount of civilian-owned guns in the U.S.

There is always going to be a loophole. With humans on both sides of the process, there will never be a foolproof solution. But arguing that we should do nothing is not only foolish, but neglects and whitewashes the mass shootings that have occurred over the past two decades.