Cowley: American Gun Mania is Deadly


Justin Prather

(Photo by Justin Prather | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Elle Cowley, Multimedia Managing Editor, Audio Producer


It’s been a heavy couple of weeks since the shooting at Uvalde Elementary School left 21 people dead, including 19 children and two teachers. Unfortunately, the reality of living in America makes the issue of gun violence unavoidable. In 2020 alone, 44,286 people lost their lives to gun violence in America. The United States’ unhealthy attitude towards guns perpetuates a culture of gun violence and the normalization of tragedy.

America’s Gun Culture

Americans have a unique relationship with guns. Some families view owning one as a rite of passage, sometimes passing them down as heirlooms. People in America adamantly defend their right to bear arms. According to Pew Research, four in 10 adults live in a household with guns. This reflects our rampant gun mania, but it also makes guns much more accessible to those who may not have had access to firearms otherwise.

This is in extreme contrast to most other countries, where guns are much more heavily regulated. After the Port Arthur Massacre in Australia, the country imposed strict gun legislation, effectively banning almost all fully automatic and semi-automatic weapons. Since the ban in 1997, gun ownership in Australia has fallen by 48%. In 2005, an estimated 6.2% of Australian households owned one or more guns. There remains an obvious disconnect between how other countries perceive guns and U.S. gun culture.

American gun culture seems like it’s here to stay, and it’s now growing stronger than ever. During the pandemic, American gun ownership rates soared. Experts believe the spike may have had something to do with the election, but the number of new gun owners was notably high. Gun sales increased by 64% from 2019 to 2020. I remember driving past my hometown’s rifle store and seeing a line down the street. And while gun ownership and sales have increased, so have gun-related crimes. From 2019 to 2020, the number of gun-related homicides and non-suicide-related shootings rose by 25%.

Unnecessary and Unprotected Gun Ownership

Pro-gunners use many of the same arguments. In a poll of gun owners, 48% reported owning a gun for the purpose of self-defense. In reality, guns are used for self-defense at a staggeringly low rate. Between 2007 and 2011, people defended themselves from crimes with a gun about 0.9% of the time. Taking into account that four in 10 households in the United States own one or more guns, guns get used for self-defense extremely rarely. More likely, the presence of a gun makes people in proximity feel unsafe, rather than protected. In schools, it seems counterproductive to introduce more guns into an environment where students already worry about gun violence.

When the Second Amendment was written, our founding fathers could not have imagined what gun technology looks like today. The guns they knew could only fire one round at a time and took a long time to reload. Now, guns like the AR-15 can fire up to 45 rounds a minute. When modified, that number can increase to upward of 400. To think that the founding fathers protected the right to bear fully automatic or semi-automatic arms is ridiculous.

The Cost of Gun Mania

Here in America, we protect more guns than civilians. There exists an estimated 120.5 firearms for every 100 citizens in the United States. The abundance of guns inevitably shapes crime in the United States. Seventy-nine percent of homicides involve some sort of firearm. The ability to easily obtain guns makes it easier for violence to occur here. But even though some solutions seem obvious, our country’s extreme gun culture prohibits the enactment of any sort of change.

Shootings Are Not Rare

Since Columbine, more than 311,000 students have experienced gun violence in schools. Many students fear that what they see on the news will happen at their school. Real people, real children, lose their lives in environments meant to provide safe places for children to learn. The majority of teens worry about gun violence occurring at their schools, yet nothing changes to make them safer. Thousands of families have lost loved ones due to a problem that we could easily correct with the proper legislation and restrictions.

I was in fifth grade when the Sandy Hook shooting happened. I grew up in a school system where we frequently had lockdown and active shooter drills. At my high school, we experienced threats of school shootings numerous times. Police officers regularly swarmed campus, investigating if threats had any validity. 

Gun violence in schools is one of the many ugly side effects of our obsessive gun culture in the U.S. I am deeply saddened and disappointed that the safety of the public is overlooked in favor of the right to easily obtain extremely deadly weapons.


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