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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Conservative politics prevent life-saving gun reform

Politicians fail to act despite data demonstrating correlation between lax gun laws, gun-related deaths
Riley Steinbrenner
Fight for Our Lives, 2018

As of early April, there have been over 140 mass shootings in 2023. There were 647 in 2022 and 690 in 2021. Over 45,000 people died from gun-related injuries in 2020. Little has been done to address the issue of gun violence in America, and innocent lives are paying the price.

Something needed to be done after the Route 91 Harvest festival, where 58 innocent lives were taken from gun violence, but nothing was done. Something needed to change after 26 people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, but nothing has changed. The government needed to reform gun laws after the deadly shootings at Robb Elementary School, The Borderline Bar & Grill, The Orlando Nightclub Massacre and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but nothing was reformed.

This list is tragically exhaustive, and yet, outraged demands for change are inevitably derailed in Congress. The government fails to restrict guns at the expense of American lives.


While other countries have occasional incidents of gun violence, it is particularly abundant in the U.S., with a gun homicide rate 26 times greater than other nations. This makes the numbing frequency of gun deaths a uniquely American experience — so much so that guns are currently the leading cause of death among young Americans. This trend is only climbing higher.

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This begs the question — what is causing so much gun violence in the U.S.?

Primarily, there are more guns than people in the U.S., which means it is too easy for the wrong people to get their hands on a gun. According to the Giffords Law Center, only 10 states require gun buyers to show a permit or license, while three states require a license to own a firearm and two states require a gun buyer to complete firearm safety training.

Another reason why gun violence is uniquely common in America is because the federal background check to buy a gun is plagued with flaws.

For example, the FBI has three business days to notify a gun dealer if a prospective buyer is fit to own a gun. If the three-day waiting period expires, then they can proceed with selling the gun. This loophole is the reason the gunman who killed nine people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, was able to get his hands on a gun, according to NPR.

Because the background check sometimes works and sometimes does not, this leaves a buyer’s age to be the only consistent and objective form of regulation. Depending on the state and what gun is being sold, a buyer must be 18 or 21 to purchase. In some cases, this is the only restriction preventing an unfit individual from purchasing a gun.

Right-wing, pro-gun rhetoric attempts to spread the idea that regulating guns will not help America’s gun violence epidemic. In doing this, Republican lawmakers and gun lobbyists ignore the statistical facts. According to Giffords Law Center’s Annual Gun Law Scorecard, of the 10 states with the lowest rate of gun deaths, seven have some of the strongest gun laws in America. This includes Massachusetts, Hawaii, New Jersey and New York.

On the contrary, of the 10 states with the highest gun death rates, nine have the nation’s least restrictive gun laws, including Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee and Missouri. In fact, when Missouri repealed its licensing law, its firearm homicide rate increased by 47%.

Wisconsin received a D+ due to the state’s weak gun laws. The state has not enacted a state-level background check and a buyer does not need to provide a permit when making a gun purchase. Also, Wisconsin has not adopted a no-guns mandate for college campuses, making concealed carry at public universities like the University of Wisconsin perfectly legal.

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In total, the data from the Giffords Law Center makes clear that there is a strong correlation between loose gun laws and death by guns. Yet, politicians ignore the dire need for reform.

There has been gun regulation legislation that may have been proven effective, including Bill Clinton’s 1994 assault weapon ban which was passed with bipartisan support. There is not enough evidence to conclusively prove that the ban on assault weapons was the sole contributor to diminishing gun violence, but it has been noted that the severity of mass public shootings has increased dramatically after the ban expired in 2004.

It is also important to note that the U.S. has seen gun regulation since Clinton’s legislation. Last summer, Congress passed a gun control bill for the first time in almost three decades. This bipartisan effort calls for provisions in mental health services, school security, the background check and the process to obtain a firearm. The effectiveness of the legislation is hard to gauge due to the recency of the bill. Though this is a positive step forward, Biden is still pushing for a total ban on assault rifles, according to NPR.

The reason why it has become difficult to implement gun control laws is because of the aggressively polarized political climate in Congress. It may seem logical for lawmakers to unite after an incident of gun violence or a mass shooting and work together to prevent another violent massacre, but this is too good to be true.

Instead, a Tufts researcher found that after a mass shooting, Democrats pushed even harder for gun control whereas Republicans pushed harder against it. In the aftermath of a shooting, political parties are driven even further apart, gridlocking Congress from passing legislation.

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Some states are moving backward in terms of protecting their citizens. Most notably, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently quietly enacted legislation allowing Florida residents to carry a concealed loaded weapon without a permit, according to the Associated Press.

The only people in attendance to see DeSantis sign the bill were bill sponsors and gun rights advocates. This happened a week after three children and three adults were killed at The Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee.

There is a common notion perpetuated by ring-wing lawmakers and gun lobbyists that restrictive gun laws violate the freedoms guaranteed under the Second Amendment, but the issue is not so black and white. In the Supreme Court case District of Columbia v. Heller, the conservative court ruled the Second Amendment does not guarantee an absolute right to own and use firearms.

“Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the majority opinion. “[It is] not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”

Not wanting to violate the Second Amendment is not a valid excuse to maintain the current status quo.

Millions of Americans are calling on their lawmakers to ban assault rifles and restrict access to guns. The political paralysis in Congress is endangering lives. It is time for change.

Abbey Handel ([email protected]) is a freshman studying journalism and political science.

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