Compromise needed for gun reform

Andrew Hong, Guest Columist

Gun violence is distinctly American; no other fully developed nation has more mass shootings than the United States. According to Gun Violence Archive, there have been 323 mass shootings this year. Thirty-six of these shootings happened at schools. In September, Cleveland went on lockdown because of gun violence in the immediate area.

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that there is a gun violence problem. But we are divided on how to solve it, and perhaps today, more divided than ever.

Democrats favor more gun restrictions like a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines (devices that allow guns to fire at a rapid pace). Republicans favor increase attention to mental health and placing armed security guards and teachers in schools.

Guns are on top of many Americans’ minds. According to MSNBC, it was the fourth most important issue for Americans in the 2018 elections last month.

“Guns are a really important issue,” said junior Kai Laslett-Vigil. “[Congress] needs to do something now to fix gun violence.” 

In the 2018 midterm elections, Americans elected a Democratic House of Representatives alongside a Republican Senate. Come January, we will have a divided government. Passing gun control has been unsuccessful in recent past, especially through a divided government. All five gun control bills failed in the past 20 years.

One reason why Congress hasn’t passed gun regulation is because of the powerful gun lobbyists. Groups like the National Rifle Association (NRA), spend millions of dollars every year promoting pro-gun candidates. The NRA is very influential amongst conservative voters; an endorsement could make or break a candidate.

But another reason why Congress doesn’t act on gun reform is the sharp divide amongst Americans. Here at Cleveland, we can see this divide. 

Laslett-Vigil supports liberal positions like a federal ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines, while opposing implementing armed security guards at schools and arming teachers.

“We shouldn’t be spending our money on bringing more guns to school when that money could go to something else.”

In contrast, Victoria Jones, a Spanish teacher, holds a more moderate stance on gun control. Jones shared how her experiences working in a school, having children and living in an area where many people own guns have given her a unique perspective.

“I do think we need more mental health checkups and criminal background checks for people who have guns,” Jones said. “I don’t like it when I hear gunshots outside my home with my children asleep.”

But at the same time, Jones also is a strong supporter of gun rights and opposes an assault weapons ban and any kind of gun confiscation.

“The second amendment is what makes Americans American. We shouldn’t criminalize self-defense.”

Mitchell Moss, a junior, holds a more conservative stance. Moss believes armed security guards at schools would best keep students safe from shootings. He supports increased mental health support rather than increased gun restrictions. 

“I think there should be fewer regulations on what kind of guns you should get.” 

Despite Jones’, Moss’ and Laslett-Vigil’s differences on guns, all three support a bipartisan approach to solving the problem of gun violence in our divided government. Laslett-Vigil would support a deal that would place armed security guards in schools in exchange for a ban on high capacity magazines. Jones would wholeheartedly support a bipartisan bill that would increase mental health supports and criminal background checks. Moss also would support a bipartisan approach, emphasizing the need for compromise in order to get anything done.

While the Cleveland community is willing to compromise for gun reform, it’s Congress that actually needs to. Congressman Adam Smith, Cleveland’s representative in the House of Representatives, is not in favor of compromise. Smith, a supporter of gun control, believes the gun lobby and the Republican Party have become unreasonable and impossible to work with. 

“Twenty years ago, I worked with [the gun lobby] after the Columbine shooting. But now, they won’t even agree to a bump stock ban.”

Perhaps with his eyes on a new president and Senate in 2020, Smith believes it’s most important to show the American people that Democrats will work for sensible gun control and that Republicans will not. He believes the Democratic majority in the House should work solitarily on gun control in the next two years, even if it won’t become law. 

“We need to put forth sensible gun control, and show the American people this is what a Democratic Congress will look like. Even if that means we can’t get an agreement with the president and Senate.”

While no one was killed in September gun incident near Cleveland, we may not be so lucky next time. Despite Cleveland’s divided stance on guns control, we are willing to compromise to address this dire issue. Is Congress? The prospects of gun reform look grim unless they do.