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US not doing enough to address issue of gun control

On Dec. 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, 28 lives were lost, including the lives of 20 children all under the age of 8 years old. On this infamous and terrible day, 20-year-old Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School with four guns on his person and proceeded to take the lives of 26 people, after already taking his mother’s life, before firing and killing himself. Across the country, people mourned the tragic loss of those innocent citizens, and as more details were released about the massacre, many people found themselves asking two questions: First, how was someone with the medical history of Lanza able to possess and use such dangerous firearms, and second, how can we prevent this from happening again?

If we want to eliminate these tragic shootings from America, the first step is to eliminate ownership of the type of firearm used by Lanza. What he discharged that day in the elementary school was a Bushmaster Model XM15-E2S semiautomatic rifle. This gun is an extremely powerful weapon, originally designed for military use in the Vietnam War. The first question arises here: Why does any American civilian need a weapon of this magnitude? The only situation in which an individual would need the protection by a weapon of this magnitude would be an invasion by a foreign army, and in that case, we have our own American military to defend us. If we want to prevent future tragedies, we must stop the selling of these powerful automatic weapons to citizens.

The second step is to eliminate ownership by individuals in high-risk situations. Growing up, Lanza was not your typical child or teenager. According to his father, Peter Lanza, “It was crystal clear something was wrong … The social awkwardness, the uncomfortable anxiety, unable to sleep, stress, unable to concentrate, having a hard time learning, the awkward walk, reduced eye contact. You could see the changes occurring.” Eventually, Lanza was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, which is now considered to be a category in the broader autism spectrum disorder. Although Asperger’s is not directly connected to violent acts, some psychiatric experts argue that those with Asperger’s struggle to communicate verbally, and so when offended, they act out in rage to express their displeasure with the way they were treated. This idea certainly seems to apply to Adam Lanza, who had been going through a rocky period with his father in the months leading up to the shooting. It seems undisputable that Asperger’s had a significant influence on Lanza’s decision to do what he did. Lanza’s parents were aware of their son’s condition — they were with him at the doctor’s office when he was diagnosed. They did everything they could to support him and nurture him, even as he seemed to digress as he grew older. His father, despite divorcing Lanza’s mother when Lanza was still young, made time to see him every weekend. His mother, a gun owner, took Lanza to the shooting range to teach him how to shoot, knowing her son’s love of guns. And with that, the root of the problem comes to life. Under no circumstances should an individual with mental disabilities be operating a gun, let alone having guns in the house in which said individual is living. While many people diagnosed with mental disabilities can still function at high levels, leaving guns in the house increases the risk of violence and makes causing harm to others an option for people with mental disabilities, who may not fully understand the magnitude or consequences of their actions. In fact, restriction should not only stop here, but should include people with histories of violence.

The idea I propose is this: When applying for a gun license, one should have a clean record, be able to pass a background check, be able to pass a mental health test, be living in a home where there is no one with mental disabilities or histories of violence and only be able to purchase single-shot weapons. While this may sound over the top, times are changing, and gun violence is increasing at an alarming rate. It is time for America to lay down new restrictions in order to avoid tragedies like the one that occurred Dec. 14, 2012.

Rest in peace to all those who lost their lives that day. 


Joseph Mallett is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student majoring in political science and education. 

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