By Erin Doherty, Clotilde Donarumo, Kelsey Snodgrass, Michaela White
The Issue in Worcester
Worcester City officials, area politicians, and citizens are fed up and exhausted by school shootings, danger on the streets, and deaths due to gun violence. In 2015 alone, there were 40 victims of shootings and were 5,258 incidents where firearms were used for criminal activity.
Nine months into 2016, the problem continues. In a two week span there were six recorded gun incidents:
June 25th, a man was shot and killed in Hope Cemetery
June 27th, a man was shot on Merrifield Street
June 30th, a man was shot in the eye on Hamilton Street
July 1st, a man was shot in the arm on Paine Street
July 5th, a bullet grazed a man’s head after multiple shots were fired on Illinois Street
July 8th, two men were shot in their car on Millbury Street
The given picture, provided by the Worcester State University police, shows over 200 shootings in the months of January through June in 2016. The blue tab signifies Worcester State campus while the red tabs signify shootings that have occurred in the Worcester area.
On April 16, 2007 a student of Virginia Polytechnic Institute killed 32 and wounded 17 others. The student was mentally unstable, suffering from anxiety disorder and threatening to hurt others and himself, yet was still able to buy two semi-automatic pistols. This incident can be viewed as the spark that created the fire behind this pressing debate of gun control. It increased awareness of campus security and led to the arming of campus police.
This epidemic raises an urgent question among the voters: how do we fix it? There are two possible solutions, increasing gun control or allowing every lawful citizen the ownership of a gun. With an increase in gun control, less people will be allowed to own a gun and there will be more thorough background checks. Some conclude that shootings will be less of an occurrence and guns will be less likely to end up in the hands of potential criminals. Others conclude that allowing every citizen the right to have a gun leads people to feel safe and protected in case of a sudden need to be able to defend oneself. In the end, both possibilities will have an effect on this community.
Current Gun Laws
Massachusetts ranks third in the country for having the strictest gun laws, according to the Brady Campaign, the nation’s largest lobby dedicated to controlling handgun and assault-weapon violence. This state has a complicated process for purchasing rifles, shotguns, handguns, ammunition and large capacity firearms. The federal government has some control over gun laws, while states also have a set of their own. Each presidential candidate has his or her own personal views on these pressing laws which will directly impact communities.
Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee, argues for stricter gun control laws and policies to be implemented. Clinton, speaking in Cleveland, Ohio, in response to the Orlando shooting, stated that “…weapons of war have no place on our streets.” She advocates that background checks be performed to a deeper degree to reduce the possibility of illegal guns being found in communities.
Her goals are to avoid Americans being endangered by guns and hold those accountable when they break the law. She aims to build on the Brady Bill, a law that requires a waiting period for those who plan to buy handguns as well as receiving a background check. Also, she plans to remove the possibility of exploiting gun control loopholes, and to keep firearms off the streets and out of the hands of mentally ill, criminals, and domestic abusers.
“You shouldn’t be able to exploit loopholes and evade criminal background checks by buying online or at a gun show. And yes, if you’re too dangerous to get on a plane, you are too dangerous to buy a gun in America.” – Hillary Clinton, speaking in Cleveland, Ohio, in response to the Orlando shooting.
Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, advocates for a stricter interpretation of the Second Amendment. In his paper, Protecting our Second Amendment Rights Will Make America Great Again, Trump claims he will “defend the Second Amendment of our Constitution. The right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed upon.”
Trump opposes the banning of certain guns or magazine sizes, as he argues that those bans would be a “total failure”. Trump claims that limiting these rights would not be fair to law abiding gun owners.
Trump argues that many of the horrific massacres the country has endured lately are due to the failures of the mental health system and are caused by people with mental illnesses.
Trump is against more invasive background checks. He claims that people with intent to commit crime will find a way to avoid background checks and instead get guns from friends and family members. To Trump, tightening the background check process will not do anything but make it more agonizing for law abiding citizens.
“Law enforcement is great, they do a tremendous job, but they can’t be everywhere all of the time. Our personal protection is ultimately up to us. That’s why I’m a gun owner, that’s why I have a concealed carry permit, and that’s why tens of millions of Americans have concealed carry permits as well.” – Donald Trump, a quote taken from his paper, Protecting our Second Amendment Rights Will Make America Great Again.
Jill Stein, the Green Party’s candidate, campaigns for increased gun control and acknowledges that gun violence is a serious issue that requires addressing.
At a gathering for the one year anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre, Stein argues that we need to emulate Australia who “passed limits on automatic weapons background checks and did a buyback of dangerous automatic and semiautomatic weapons.”
Banning assault weapons, increasing background checks, and not allowing guns in the home are ways Stein proposes to end the gun epidemic. Increased gun control is the way to go in Stein’s opinion, as she argues that gun ownership leads to harm.
“… the more we become an unjust society, the more we are at risk for continuing gun violence and potentially growing gun violence.” – Jill Stein and her response to the one year anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting.
Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate, advocates for the right to own a gun for all law-abiding citizens. Regulations for criminals and the mentally-ill are a must, according to Johnson, but he cautions that outlawing guns would be a violation of the Second Amendment.
Johnson claims that laws permitting “concealed carry” have reduced violent crime in some states. Over the past five years, Johnson has purchased two guns that he keeps in his home for self-protection. The American people should be allowed to arm themselves for safety, in his view, but in the right way and with proper rules that people will follow. Someone considering committing a crime may not commit that crime if they know that there are people around that could be carrying a concealed weapon. In this way, the armed become a line of defense according to Johnson.
“We should be open to a discussion on keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill,” Johnson says. “ I don’t know how that manifests itself, but I’m looking to get elected President of the United States. I just want to let people know that I have an open mind about how we might, how government might, interject itself in a lot of the problems we have.” – Gary Johnson tells USA today.