The availability of and access to firearms which is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution by the Second Amendment has created a multitude of consequences for modern Americans. The impacts of a loosely regulated gun market include the highest per capita rate of gun-related deaths in the world, major metropolitan areas like Detroit and Chicago struggling with unprecedented murder rates, and toddlers routinely finding their parent's weapons and dying after accidental discharge. Several longitudinal studies have demonstrated that the U.S. is by far the world's leader in both gun ownership and gun-related fatalities, and in fact, America's rate of 10.2 gun-related deaths per 100,000 citizens is more than double the rate of any other developed nation. The Congress has historically been averse to the passage of restrictive gun control legislation, as a powerful firearm lobby led by the National Rifle Association has successfully kept the advances of gun control advocates at bay. With the string of recent school shootings and other episodes of random gun violence -- including the unchecked murder of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, the shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 17 others at a political event, and dozens of similar unprompted shootings -- the call for federal legislation to improve gun control in America has grown louder. However, despite several speeches by a seemingly determined President Obama -- many of which came in the immediate aftermath of the devastating Sandy Hook Elementary shooting -- there has been little to no progress on this front in the months which have followed. This Executive Summary is intended to flesh out the facts on this divisive issue, by combining scholarly research, government statistics and news reports to form the foundation of a valid argument for or against the passage of tighter gun control laws.
With the disturbing news of yet another school shooting shattering the adolescence of innocent children, this time leaving twenty first-grade students and six adults' dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, the national media, concerned parents and strained educators have once again focused their collective attention on the epidemic that is America's institutionalized lack of gun control. In the wake of the Columbine High School massacre which claimed 13 lives and the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings that killed 32 students and faculty, the Sandy Hook tragedy brings the consequences of rampant bullying in schools back to the forefront of the national consciousness, a problem which is only compounded by the widespread availability of military-style assault weapons. The unimaginable horror inflicted on six-year-old children at the hands of a gun-wielding sociopath inspired an instinctual outpouring of grief across America, reinvigorating the rancorous political and social debate over gun control legislation in the process. It has been widely reported that "in the first 15 hours following a mass-shooting that claimed more than two dozen lives Friday at (the) Connecticut elementary school, more than 100,000 Americans took their anger and frustration to the White House, asking the Obama administration for a renewed national debate on gun control" (Martosko, 2012), and the President responded to these calls in vigil two days after the shooting occurred. Here he announced his plans to enact sweeping gun control legislation, and just a month later he signed an "initiative to reduce gun violence (that) includes both twelve legislative proposals that would need to be acted on by Congress and twenty-three executive actions" (Perkinson, 2013).
The question facing school administrators and public policymakers in the wake of the inconceivable tragedy which occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary is whether or not the stricter style of gun control legislation proposed by President Obama would have prevented the shooting from taking place. The fact that the assailant in the Newtown shooting, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, was afforded easy access to heavy-duty firearms owned by his mother, who he shot four times and murdered to begin his homicidal rampage, has been covered exhaustively by the major press outlets. Lanza's proximity to guns has prompted many in the public to question why a single mother would ever need the high-caliber firepower provided by the military-grade Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle, and similar incarnations of assault-style automatic weaponry. To address the paradox between preaching public safety and permitting unstable members of the public like Lanza to own and operate weapons designed for military, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California also proposed "legislation that would ban the sale and manufacture of 157 types of semiautomatic weapons, as well as magazines holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition" (Steinhauer, 2013). While many proposals were made concerning the limitation of ammunition magazines, background checks prior to purchase, and other finer points of firearm ownership, no prominent politician addressed the underlying issue: What could motivate an individual to slaughter innocent children with such depravity? Despite a wealth of evidence suggesting that school shootings are nearly always precipitated by prolonged periods of intense bullying, the vast majority of legislation proposed after the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting was focused on reinstating the lapsed assault weapons ban and tightening existing gun controls, rather than preventing bullying from turning mentally unstable children into ticking time-bombs armed with the capacity to kill dozens of people in mere moments.
Available Federal Data:
According to data compiled by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and published in a report titled Homicide Trends in the United States, 1980-2008, "the sharp increase in homicides from the mid-1980s through the early 1990 & #8230; is attributable to gun violence by teens and young adults" (Cooper & Smith, 2011). This trend suggests that the pervasiveness of firearms in American today has inordinately affected young people, with the current generation having become desensitized to the realities of gun-related violence. The same report revealed that "in 2008, three-quarters (77.2%) of multiple victim homicides involved guns while two-thirds (65.7%) of single victim homicides involved guns" (Cooper & Smith, 2011), facts which confirm the role of guns in school shootings and other mass casualty events. Data compiled by the National Crime Victimization Survey observed that "467,321 persons were victims of a crime committed with a firearm in 2011," while in the same year data collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) showed that "that firearms were used in 68% of murders, 41% of robbery offenses and 21% of aggravated assaults nationwide" (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2011). An investigative inquiry reported to the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Institute of Justice concluded that "with an estimated 258 million guns in private hands and millions more produced each year, there are many sources and means through which offenders can obtain firearms despite legal restrictions on gun purchasing and ownership by convicted felons, juveniles, and other high-risk groups" (Koper, 2007).
Contemporary Research on Causes of School Shootings
Numerous studies have already concluded that victims of frequent bullying are more susceptible to a litany of metal and physical health problems, ranging from clinical depression to increased anxiety and suicidal tendencies, so the supposition that bullying can cause the psychotic episodes typical in school shooting perpetrators is well founded. Indeed, a comprehensive study published by the Canadian Journal of Public Health recently quantified the "impact of repetitive physical bullying on depressed mood, low self-esteem, suicide ideation, low self-reported health and feeling like an outsider at school" (Lemstra, Nielsen, Rogers, Thompson & Moraros, 2012), identifying a clear susceptibility to these afflictions within groups of bullying victims. When supplementary research also shows that the vast majority of school shooters previously suffered from bouts of depression, lowered self-esteem and other mental maladies, it is clear that the rate of bullying is indirectly linked to the relative increase in school violence. This conclusion is further supported by a report released one year after the Columbine attacks which included a dire warning that "an analysis by officials at the U.S. Secret Service of 37 premeditated school shootings found that bullying, which some of the shooters described 'in terms that approached torment,' played a major role in more than two-thirds of the attacks" (Boodman, 2006). While I agree wholeheartedly with implementing legislation to remove assault weapons from the streets, reduce the size of ammunition magazines, and enhance the accuracy of background checks for prospective gun owners, the fact that bullying motivates so many school shooters to kill in spectacular acts of violence suggests that guns are simply a tool. Unless school districts, parents, and students themselves work actively to create an atmosphere where bullying is unacceptable, children with the same social acclimation issues as Adam Lanza will continue to be taunted to the point of torment, with the most mentally unstable individuals committing unspeakable acts of violence as a result.
Boodman, S.G. (2006, May 16). Gifted and tormented academic stars often bullied -- and more likely to suffer emotionally as a result. The Washington Post, p. F1. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp- dyn/content/article/2006/05/15/AR2006051501103 .html
Cooper, A., & Smith, E.L.U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2011).
Homicide trends in the United States, 1980-2008: Annual rates for…