2013 ERC Scholarship Essay Program $750 Recipient
Samuel Chong, Mercer Island (Mercer Island High School)

The United State’s uniqueness precludes simple comparisons to other countries’ gun policies. At 88.8 guns per 100 residents (as of 2007) the United States has the highest number of guns per residents of any country in the world. [1] The sheer number of firearms in our country combined with the prevalence of black markets make it impossible to prevent every would-be perpetrator from acquiring a gun. Thus, in order to stop gun violence in the United States we must act under the assumption that people with evil intent will always be able to acquire firearms.

The opportunities to prevent an act of gun violence can be narrowed down to two very specific time windows. The first is before the would-be perpetrator becomes mentally or emotionally compromised. The second is before the would-be perpetrator opens fire.

The specifications of the first window have far-reaching social implications. To stop gun violence, the question needs to be asked: What makes a person want to kill another human being? One answer could be our entertainment industry. Besides presenting an unrealistic view of guns, movies and videogames frequently venerate and romanticize killing. Gang violence often stems from the belief that killing is the norm, killing is cool, and killing asserts dominance; ideas that our entertainment industry promotes. Another response is that stress combined with sudden, devastating events can drive a person to commit a crime of passion. The third reason is that the person is simply insane.

We can take practical steps to stop gun violence during this first window. Reforming our entertainment industry is one step; cracking down on gangs is another. Crimes of passion are harder to prevent, but contributing factors leading to the act of violence can be treated if identified. For example, we need to take stress and its effects seriously, whether it is work-related, due to relationships, or PTSD. Finally, mental health problems must be reported, treated and monitored. Although sometimes contrary to our culture and natural instincts, we should learn to adopt the airport mantra of: “If you see something, say something”.

The second window offers more straightforward solutions to stopping gun violence. Of the dozen deadliest mass shootings in recent U.S. history, the majority of them were accomplished in gun-free zones. These include schools, post offices, and other areas where ordinary citizens are not allowed to carry firearms. Regardless of why the perpetrators chose to commit their atrocities in these zones, the fact stands that they were able to kill many unarmed people before police arrived to stop the violence.

In this second window, steps need to be taken to neutralize the perpetrator before he or she opens fire. Specifically, we should work to enhance security in gun-free zones, since they have historically been the most vulnerable to gun violence. This could come in the form of metal detectors, monitored CCTVs, and trained security personnel.

Through societal reform and improved security, we can take specific and pragmatic steps to stop gun violence without infringing on Second Amendment rights.

[1] Small Arms Survey 2007