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US gun violence – will it ever end?

In 2016, around 38,000 people in the United States died as a consequence of firearms, a rise of roughly 4,000 from 2015.

America is also home to a shocking 300 million guns – approximately one for each person. Yet President Trump fails to admit there is a problem, instead dismissing the issue and blaming mental health.

“We have a lot of mental health problems in our country, as do other countries,” Trump declared “… this isn’t a guns situation”. Isn’t it? Surely if mental heath was completely responsible for these atrocities, mass shootings would be common everywhere. Furthermore, Michael Stone – a psychiatrist at Columbia University – has identified that only 22 per cent of the killers suffered from mental illnesses.

Mental health should not be blamed for these deaths – simply because it is not responsible.

Deciding who is to blame for the problem does not solve it. What needs to take place is action.

Many of those in the US who support the current laws concerning gun ownership believe that restricting their purchase won’t resolve the issue, because those who are willing to open fire in a school will most likely have no issue with purchasing weapons illegally, and the ‘good guys’ will have nothing to protect themselves with. To this I would ask: Is there such a thing as a ‘good guy’ who bears a weapon designed to kill?

And other countries that have enforced gun restrictions, such as Australia, have found them to be effective. Australia’s firearm homicide rate fell by 47 per cent in the seven years after the law was passed and the firearm suicide rate by 57 per cent, according to Harvard University researchers. While 13 gun massacres occurred in the 18 years leading up to the change of law, in the 14 years after there were none.

Similarly, Connecticut’s law requiring gun purchasers to obtain a licence was followed by a 40 per cent drop in gun homicides. Clearly, the figures show that there is something that can be done, and that it is effective.

Students and activists have called on people around the country to demand action following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida, which killed 17 and injured 19 others.

This has led to two planned events, the theme simply being: ‘Enough is enough’.

Organisers have said: “Parents have the right to send their kids to school in the mornings and see them home alive at the end of the day.” Is this not true?

Here in the UK, where gun crime is rare, this is not a problem we have to deal with. Experiencing devastating situations like those in the USA is not something any of us would ever consider being a reality, and it should be that way for everyone. America should be facing the decision as to whether they want to preserve gun use, or people. Yet those with the power to make a difference simply aren’t doing that.

One life is worth all the guns in the world and changes need to be made.

-- Imogen Aley is a student at King Edward VI School, Bury St Edmunds