As the political climate in America continues to change with the recent instatement of many new officials and continued involvement of the NRA, gun violence becomes a larger focus in politics. The rate of mass shootings continues to rise with the recent tragic events such as the Las Vegas shooting, and yet there has been no concrete evidence of progress to resolve these issues within our government. People are calling out for politicians who have been paid off by the NRA in the form of campaign contributions and support to open their eyes and do something to prevent the massive amount of gun violence that occurs in America.
Every year, over 100,000 people are shot, resulting in the deaths of over 30,000 due to gun violence, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. However, many people and organizations are working diligently try to prevent gun violence and reduce these shocking statistics. One organization that has made great progress is Ceasefire Oregon, a local nonprofit that wants to implement higher standards for gun ownership and is aiming to reduce gun violence by 30-50%. Ceasefire Oregon representative Penny Okamoto feels that the government isn’t regulating gun violence properly, stating that they have “an ability and a moral obligation…If they were doing a good job of regulating we wouldn’t have the mass shootings that we have.” Okamoto adds that mass shootings can be prevented by banning assault rifles such as AR-15’s and high-capacity magazines. AR-15’s are semi-automatic lightweight sporting rifles that have been used in the Las Vegas, Orlando, and Sandy Hook shootings due to their ability to kill at a rapid rate. They are not regulated properly. These guns are also only classified as sporting rifles in order to keep them accessible. “The NRA doesn’t want them to be classified as what they are, which is assault rifles,” Okamoto explains. “Oregon law regulates the number of bullets that people can have a magazine when they hunt, which is only five for large game, so if it is good enough for elk, it is good enough for people.”
Okamoto also touches on the use of bump stocks, a modification that increases the rate that a semi-automatic rifle can fire, which she believes should not be legal. These modifications serve as a loophole for gun sellers and buyers, allowing someone to modify a semi-automatic weapon and essentially turn it into an automatic machine gun without the proper licensing. Although bump stocks have been a part of the debate over gun control for a while, with many politicians and even the NRA mentioning that they are open to regulations on bump stocks, nothing has been done to restrict these modifications.
While often underrepresented in the narrative around gun violence, many of those who own guns are actually working towards gun safety and recognize how prominent gun violence is in America. Oregon Gun Owners for Responsible Gun Ownership is an organization made up of these gun owners who have taken it upon themselves to regulate gun use because many government officials who have been bought by the NRA refuse to do so. Board member Paul Kemp works tirelessly to educate others on how to be a responsible gun owner. Kemp says that the most important thing is to make sure that guns are locked up and unloaded when they are not in use. He believes that guns often fall into the wrong hands. Because of this, all members of Oregon Gun Owners for Responsible Ownership are required to give or receive a background check before they buy or sell a gun. “The single most effective tool is universal background checks for gun sales,” says Kemp. In many mass shootings, buyers that should have been legally prohibited from buying a gun were able to get their hands on one, resulting in the deaths of many innocent people.
Greg Pickering is the shift captain at the Tualatin Police Department and an arms dealer in and around Portland, so he commonly encounters issues with gun violence and advocates for the education of all gun owners. He is often responsible for teaching fellow Tualatin police officers how to use and carry a gun while on duty. “You should know how to shoot, how to dismantle your weapon, and how to lock up your weapons properly.” Pickering agrees that more regulation could be enacted “as long that it doesn’t violate the Second Amendment or the right to bear arms.” Pickering is a responsible gun owner who sees how important gun regulation is. He supports the idea of having waiting periods and background checks, and is well aware of how drastic the effects of gun violence are on Americans. Others in government and our country refuse to recognize this fact.
As America experiences a drastic change in its political climate, gun control needs to continue to be a part of the discussion. Mass shootings are normalized as a part of American culture, and no preventative measures are being taken. People see a fleeting headline that more lives have been lost due to gun violence. They mourn for a few days and move on with their lives. The many people who die due to mass shootings and gun violence are continuing to be forgotten; their deaths are becoming more and more meaningless. Talking about gun violence is important, as this problem can be solved. More people need to stand up and advocate for change in our society. This isn’t just political; it is an issue that involves the safety of all Americans.