2013 ERC Scholarship Essay Program $500 Recipient
Shannon Harris, Snohomish (University of Washington)

In the wake of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, many Americans have demanded stricter gun control. While there is no denying that this violence needs to be stopped, there is a difference between “just doing something” and doing something that will actually make a difference. Banning guns will not stop gun violence. Limiting ammunition will not stop gun violence. New laws will not stop gun violence when the perpetrators of these heinous acts are already breaking the law. What needs to change is the American attitude towards guns, and the casual treatment of violence in our society.

Many gun control activists and politicians are demanding, “We have to do something”. I find this phrase particularly infuriating because it shows a serious lack of thought. “Doing something” suggests a knee-jerk reaction of rushing a bill through Congress without the necessary due diligence. Thus we see politicians putting forth legislation that they really know nothing about. The 1994 assault weapons ban prohibited gun accessories such as pistol grips, bayonet mounts and flash suppressors – none of which affect the actual function of the gun. After the ban expired, it was found to have little impact on the number of gun-related deaths. As we can see, when lawmakers set out to just “do something”, they end up passing laws that are not only completely ineffective at reducing violence, but also infringe on the constitutional rights of the American people.

We need a change of attitude towards guns and violence. Violence does not occur because there are guns; violence occurs because someone feels the need to hurt people, and the gun happens to be available. I come from a family of gun owners, and consequently my sister and I learned at a young age how to properly and safely handle firearms. We understand that guns are not toys, and while there is no such thing as a “safe” gun, we know how to properly handle one to reduce the risk of an accident. If America stopped treating guns as taboo objects and instead taught our children to respect them, accidental gun fatalities would be significantly reduced. Finally, we need to change the lax attitude Americans have towards violence. The typical American child will view more than 200,000 acts of violence, including more than 16,000 murders, before age 18. While I do not believe in censoring what is on TV, I do believe parents need to be aware of the facts and monitor their children accordingly. We are desensitizing our children with continual violence through media. When children show early signs of aggression or mental instability, parents need to take action and talk to them, or take them to counseling, and that counseling must be available. Parents have to recognize early warning signs and prevent a child from growing into an aggressive, unstable adult. Preventing gun violence is not a matter of taking away guns, but rather taking away the desire to be violent.