Students debate gun violence solutions

by Charlotte Hickman and Megan Lett

As of April 2023, gun access is being pushed into the spotlight of controversy in the United States and in Tennessee, specifically. Following the Covenant School shooting in Nashville, TN, the Tennessee House of Representatives have proposed new gun laws. Sophomore Charlotte Hickman and junior Megan Lett share their opposing opinions on the matter of gun access. 


In the past several decades and especially the last several years, school shooters have caused more of a problem than ever. Personally, I believe that there is no good reason for any civilian to have access to an assault rifle or even most firearms. 

For many people, hunting is a vital part of their lives, diet and even income, so I do understand the use of civilian firearms to some degree. However, guns being available to the extent that they are now in the United States causes far more harm than good. 

Although an accurate number is hard to assess due to shootings not being tracked at a national level, there could have been as many as 695 mass shootings in the United States in 2022 alone. In comparison, the United Kingdom only had one. What’s the difference? The United Kingdom banned automatic and semi-automatic assault rifles in 1996 following the Dunblane school shooting, which killed 16 children and their teacher. The UK saw one shooting, took action, and banned assault rifles. This was massively effective. The sheer number of American shootings makes me feel that red flag laws are not enough, even if they’re a step in the right direction. Think of how many lives could have been saved in the United States if we took action after one school shooting like the UK did. 

Meanwhile, other countries’ laws have proved assault rifle bans to be massively effective. New Zealand faced one mass shooting back in 2019 and quickly banned every semi-automatic gun in the country. Firearms were then sold to the government, a registry was put in place to keep track of gun sales, and no mass shootings have occurred there since. 

The United States did have a Federal Assault Weapons Ban once before. It was put into place in 1994 and expired in 2004. While the law has been criticized for having several loopholes that lowered its effectiveness (the law “only applied to the specified types of weapons and large-capacity magazines that were created after the bill became law, meaning that there was nothing illegal about owning or selling such a weapon or magazine that had been created before the law was signed,” according to ABC News), the law still clearly lowered the rates of gun violence for those ten years.

A chart indicating the amounts of murders and suicides by gun from 1968 to 2021. It is visible in the chart that these numbers dropped between 1994 and 2004. Source: Pew Research Center

If a law with as many issues as that one did still made as much of a difference as the chart demonstrates, a more solid assault rifle ban law could cause far more help and save many more lives. 

I truly don’t see any good reason why not to ban assault rifles. The Second Amendment’s call for militia is no longer relevant to the 2023 climate of the country. Assault rifles have no purpose other than to kill, and I feel that the right to living should by far outweigh the right to firearms. 

Yes, restrictions on who can access guns based on mental health and criminal history are good. They’re great, even, and I believe that the United States should have at the very least put those laws in place decades ago. I understand why it is argued that these red flag laws are all we need. However, I am simply not convinced that they are enough

A photo of the victims of the Nashville Covenant School shooting. Source: CNN

The Washington Post has an interactive article that demonstrates the amount of school children affected by gun violence since the Columbine High School shooting in 1999. According to this article, which also keeps a running list of American shootings and the amount of people injured and killed, more than 349,000 students in America have faced school gun violence in the years following Columbine. 

A still of the Washington Post article’s interactive feature. A single dot is 20 students who were present for a shooting at their school. 

In my opinion, we as a country need to take action now and ban assault rifles before more innocent people lose their lives to preventable violence. 


American citizens have the right to purchase a gun in the United States under the protection of the second amendment. However, laws regulating firearms and their purchase vary widely from state to state. In my opinion, all states should require a background check that examines if a person has a criminal record or is under mental evaluation. I believe that the gun is not the issue, it is the person who wields it who creates a destructive weapon out of it. Though I believe this is one of the best solutions to address gun violence, I do not think guns should be completely taken away from citizens. 

If a gun is sitting on a table and no one is touching it, the gun is not harmful. Even loaded, the gun is not harmful because it is not in someone’s possession. The only time a gun becomes a deadly weapon is when it is in the hands of a person who has ill intentions. This being said, the weapon is not the issue; it is the fault of the human that makes a gun a weapon of destruction. 

Yes, guns have been used for harm, but this is due to the person wielding it. For example, on April 20, 1999, two Columbine High School students killed 13 people and wounded more than 20 others when they went on a killing spree at their school. That horrific day in Littleton, Colorado changed the way law enforcement deal with active shooters today. Both shooters were equipped with four guns. On March 27, 2023, a mass school shooting occurred at The Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee when a 28-year-old Nashville resident broke into the elementary school and began shooting at students and staff members. The perpetrator was under mental evaluation during the time of the shooting and was equipped with three guns. Both incidents are evidence of guns being used as a weapon of destruction. 

Defensive gun use, however, is defined as using a firearm to protect yourself, your family, or other people from a crime. In that type of situation, the gun could be fired or simply on display. David Hemenway, a professor of Health Policy at the Harvard School of Public Health, estimated that there are approximately 55,000–80,000 defensive gun uses each year. Though this number is lower than other gun use categories, it is still a high statistic. When a person uses defensive gun tactics, their intention is to protect, not harm.  

Democratic Tennessee State Representatives Justin Jones, Gloria Johnson, and Justin Pearson (left to right) protesting in the Capitol during a hearing.

Credit: George Walker IV /The Tennessean via AP

The Covenant School shooting is an example of how defensive gun use prevented a terrible situation from worsening. Two police officers opened fire on the shooter, killing her 14 minutes after she had arrived at the school. They stopped her from killing or injuring any other children and staff members. Following the recent event of the Nashville school shooting, America has been in a frenzy to enforce stricter gun laws. Watching the news and reading articles about newly proposed gun laws has only made me realize that people are looking for a temporary solution rather than something permanent.

The Columbine massacre and the Covenant School shooting both prove that guns can change from a weapon of security to a weapon of destruction because of the person handling the gun. In the hands of the three shooters, guns were used to kill and harm while in the hands of law enforcement, guns were used to protect. 

Many American citizens argue that “military guns” or “assault weapons” should not be available to the people and should only be used in a military setting. Though many citizens argue this, they are not educated on what defines an assault weapon. The official definition of an assault weapon is “any of various automatic and semiautomatic military firearms utilizing an intermediate-power cartridge, designed for individual use.” Because many people do not know the difference between a military-grade weapon and a civilian-grade weapon, they use false information to support their arguments. 

A common misconception in the U.S. is that AR-15s are “assault weapons” or military firearms. People will argue that ‘AR’ stands for “assault rifle,” when it actually stands for ArmaLite Rifle. The truth is that AR-15-style semi-automatic weapons are civilian versions of military weapons. M-16 and M-4 guns, on the other hand, are military versions of the AR-15. Though the difference is minimal, AR-15s are not technically military-grade or assault weapons. 

Guns lined up in a gunshop

Credit:Henry Taylor/The Leaf-Chronicle via USA Today Network

Based on U.S. citizens’ lack of education on assault weapons, many government officials appeal to their wishes and think that taking certain guns away from civilians is the solution to stopping gun violence. Though there is logic behind this belief, it is also faulty. In other countries where the government restricted civilian rights to own and purchase a gun became one-party, totalitarian dictatorships. A well-known example of this was Nazi Germany (1933-1945). When Adolf Hitler took away the right to bear arms from German citizens, he took power away from them. This led to a domino effect of restricting one right leading to restricting more, making him powerful enough to control the whole country. A more modern example of this is North Korea. The country has been controlled by the Kim family since 1948. Civilian ownership of firearms is banned outright in North Korea. In both examples, civilians began to fear their government because their source of physical protection was taken from them. America is “the land of the free,” and this has only stayed true because of the 27 amendments listed in the United States Constitution. 

Written in 1791, the second amendment says, “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” This amendment was created by James Madison to give citizens the right of protection from the government. If guns were to be taken away from American citizens, the second amendment would be disregarded and the rights of the people would be stripped away.

As gun control continues to be a hotly-debated topic, it is important for all people to be able to express their opinions on the topic and to ensure that they don’t live in an echo chamber.

Read more from The Bobcat Times:

2023 Bobcat Graduation!

Mass School Shootings: What can be Done?

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