Marin’s rep doesn’t make it bulletproof

Chloe Wintersteen

As students crouched underneath their desks in my sixth period history class, rumors spread like wildfire. An anxious energy flooded the darkened room as phones and whispers alike carried rumored messages: “There’s a gun,” “An ambulance is outside,” “There are two guns!” and “Someone got shot.” While listening to every eerie footstep in the hall and scanning the room for weapons to use for self defense, it was impossible not to think of Columbine, Sandy Hook, and many other school shootings the United States has witnessed in recent years.

We are lucky that our lockdown, which was prompted by an unsubstantiated gun threat, was essentially just a drill. Though the lockdown ran smoothly thanks to our nimble administrators and cooperative students, the lockdown highlights the prevalence of guns in our culture, and brings to light the issue of gun control.

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According to Time Magazine’s 2013 Gun Control data, California has implemented the most gun control ownership restrictions of any U.S. state. Among other restrictions, dealers must be licensed, guns must be registered with law enforcement, background checks on all sales must occur, and no open, limited, or concealed carry is permitted. However, the public purchase and usage of semi-automatic weapons, a main cause of mass shootings — defined as two or more killings, excluding the perpetrator — is still legal in every state.

According to the State of Connecticut General Assembly, 49 mass shootings have been identified since the Columbine massacre in 1999. 84 percent of the people who have died in mass shootings since Columbine were killed at the hands of a semi-automatic weapon.

A Federal Assault Weapons Ban was signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1994, but it expired in 2004. Though numerous groups lobbied to renew the ban immediately after its expiration, none succeeded.

According to a 2013 Gallup Historical Trends poll, 56 percent of the country would reinstate and strengthen the ban on assault weapons and 51 percent of people would limit the sale of ammunition magazines to those of 10 rounds or less, yet current federal law grants the public access to assault weapons and high capacity magazines.

According to Gallup’s 2013 Historical Trends poll, 60 percent of gun owners choose to own a gun for personal safety, 36 percent for hunting, 18 percent for recreation and enjoyment, and 5 percent to uphold Second Amendment rights. Since none of these activities require a semi-automatic weapon for participation, semi-automatic weapons should be much harder for the public to acquire. If semi-automatic weapons had been harder to obtain in the past, thousands of fatalities in mass shootings could have been avoided.

The Second Amendment states, “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

According to Gallup Research’s 2008 poll, 73 percent of Americans believe the Second Amendment guarantees all Americans, not just members of state militias, the right to own guns,  and that implementing stricter gun control laws would be an infringement on constitutional rights. However, in 1939, the Supreme court decreed that the Second Amendment allows for restrictions on gun ownership since it was originally instituted for the purpose of rendering an effective militia, and not for the purpose of arming individual citizens.

While some could argue that arming everyone for protection against gun crime is a better solution than enforcing harder restrictions, using a gun as protection would only subdue a killer after a shooting has begun. In fact, a study by researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and Harvard School of Public Health found that that between 2007 and 2010, states with stricter gun control laws had fewer gun-related fatalities.

Many Redwood students had light-hearted reactions to the lockdown, never believing for a second that Marin’s bubble could be popped by an act of mass violence, even though gun violence is quite feasible anywhere. No matter how sheltered some of us may feel, the monetary value and perceived safety of our area does not make us bulletproof.

The lockdown should be a major wakeup call to the Redwood community. California needs to do everything it can to avoid a real gun threat in the future, and that starts with tightening gun control laws, specifically those regarding semi-automatic weapons.