The Issue of Gun Violence in the United States and Its Effects on American Society
It was the massacre at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999 that sparked America’s attention to gun violence. People finally started realizing that guns were a problem and nearly everyone was asking how something like this could have happened. Kids were no longer feeling safe at school and parents no longer felt safe sending them. The effects of this resulted in a media frenzy. The media in turned scared the public and the public reacted by demanding a change. This has continued since then and the only change accomplished has been a rise in the gun violence statistics.
It’s no question that gun violence gets the media’s attention, especially when children are involved. In the aftermath of Columbine there was an expert on every channel blaming someone or something new for the actions of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Was it the music, the movies, the video games? Could it have been the drugs or toy guns? No one really knew but the media had America scared of all of them. One of the people ridiculed most, rocker Marilyn Manson, spoke in his own defense in the documentary Bowling for Columbine. He said, “…The president was shooting bombs overseas [the day of the Columbine massacre]. Yet I’m a bad guy because I sing rock and roll songs. Who’s a bigger influence, the president or Marilyn Manson? …I think it’s ironic that nobody said ‘maybe the President had an influence on this violent behavior” (Bowling).
Fear that this could happen again was on everyone’s mind. In order to prevent it schools installed metal detectors and instilled stricter dress codes (Bowling). The fear that had built up in Americans, do to the vast media attention, hit a boiling point. Schools were suspending and expelling kids left and right. One school in particular suspended a first grader for pointing a chicken strip at a teacher and saying “Pow! Pow!” (Bowling). Since then, the madness hasn’t ceased. Gun stories, involving children or not, lead the news every night and fear is instilled before each American falls asleep.
The absolution of this fear is what drives politicians to lobby for stricter gun laws. Sixty nine percent of the public and fifty seven percent of the gun owners support new laws (Burton 50). The Brady Act is the most recent change to gun laws in this country. It requires background check using the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) before every handgun purchase. “The FBI projects that 11.4 million background checks will be conducted annually” (Anders). This system is run an operated by the FBI. The Brady Act also prohibits fugitives, addicts, aliens, minors and others from ever owning a gun (Brady). The National Rifle Association (NRA) has done everything in their power to make sure gun control laws never get any more strict than that. However, the NRA is an open club. A person does not need to own a gun to join. So, for around fifty dollars a year gun control activist could join and sway the votes on all NRA decisions. This could open the doors for many more gun control victories and eventually a handgun/ assault weapon ban.
The effects of gun violence are not as clear as death and injury. They go way beyond that. The media uses gun violence to get ratings. A gun crime is always the lead story on the 10 o’clock news, in turn it scares an already paranoid public and as a result the politicians fight for less crime in this country. This is the way it will always work until Americans ban together and abolish the real problem. “People without guns injure people; guns kill them”(Violence Policy Center 19).