2018 has been the worst year for gun violence in the US with a total of 55,849 incidents from January 1 to December 26, 2018. According to Gun Violence Archive, shootings claimed more than 14,000 deaths in the US in 2018.
The year was also the worst for school shootings in the US, with the most shootings on campuses (25), most people shot (94), most people killed (33) and most students exposed to gunfire (25,332), according to a report in the Washington Post.
While the deaths of 17 students and staff members at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in February led to increased security measures at schools, the larger issue of preventing such attacks instead of focusing on how to react to them still remains to be addressed.
Some of the steps could also end up making the students less secure. According to a report by Newsweek, an Oklahoma public school has built bulletproof shelters that can fit 35 students and two teachers inside during an attack.
The main problem with this system is what if you are trapped in the safety net with the attacker, which in most cases is a school student?
What are the gun laws in the US?
The Second Amendment serves as the legal basis for gun laws in the US. The amendment protects the right of citizens to possess firearms. The bill which was passed in 1791 and modified in 2008 allows any individual to own guns for self-defence, excluding felons and mentally unstable patients. However, legal loopholes ensure that even those barred from possessing guns have access to them.
Although a Federal Firearms License is required to obtain firearms and ammunition, not every buyer is legally subject to a background check, one of the main reasons for guns reaching the wrong hands. According to a report by DW.com, the term 'Gunshow Loophole' explains how one can purchase a gun without having to undergo a background check.
Following the Parkland shooting, thousands of people protested in cities across the US on March 24 as part of the #MarchForOur Lives movement seeking stricter gun laws in the country.
The protesters gathered to demand stronger background checks on gun sales, raising the federal age for obtaining guns to 21 and a restoration of the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban among other measures. Supported by many celebrities including George Clooney, the protests were one of the largest in American history.
Some gun control measures have been put in place this year, especially at the state level. According to the Giffords Law Center, 26 states and Washington DC enacted 67 new gun control laws this year, almost triple that in 2017. Seven states have enacted laws that added a background check requirement and some states tightened the minimum age to acquire firearms to 21. But in the absence of federal laws, people who want to buy a gun can always move to another state where the norms are less stringent.
The movement offers hope that the debate is changing in favour of gun control and will eventually reach a tipping point that is irreversible. Until then, students in the US will continue to go to school with the threat of a shooting hanging ominously over their heads.