Editorial: America Has an American Problem in Need of an American Solution

Oda Tiller-Brattebø, Senior Reporter

It is February 14th, 2018 and I’m sitting in the couch with my mom as images flash at us from the TV screen. It is from the United States of America, a place I’ve always thought of as a safe haven; a place full of freedom and liberty. We watch as helicopter after helicopter passes over Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Military personnel can be seen running into the school, rescuing people I can tell are my own age. Some are younger. We watch in silence; it’s not the first time we’ve seen this happen, but this time it feels different. My mom turns to me to ask me the question I knew was coming: “Are you sure you want this?” This being an exchange year in America, where I will be just like the teenagers now running across the parking lot. I’ve wanted to do it for as long as I can remember, fuelled partially by my mom’s fairytales of when she was abroad. But I had to admit, the constant shootings were giving me second thoughts. The same week my mom confessed to calling my organization to ask about the likelihood of me being involved in a mass shooting at my future high school. They told her no student traveling through them had ever even been caught up in one. I later found out one of the people killed in Parkland was an exchange student.

When I say “it’s not the first time we’ve seen this happen”, I’m not exaggerating. Since my birth in early 2001, there have been 234 incidents in American high schools classified as school shootings. This number includes the ten deadliest shootings in American history. School shootings have been described as a “uniquely American crisis” by the Washington Post. And it truly is. Between the 1999 Columbine shooting and the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting there were 31 mass shootings in the States and 14 in the rest of the world combined.

I come from one of the safest countries in the world: Norway. On the Global Peace Index, we rank number 16, whereas the US is 121 out of 163 countries. Countries such as Brazil and the Ivory Coast are ranked higher. I’m not saying we don’t experience violence, danger and uncertainty in Norway. These last years we– along with most of Europe– have been under an almost constant threat of terrorism, and in 2011 the worst mass murder since World War 2 took place. A man born and raised in Norway shot and killed 69 teenagers at a political youth camp and bombed the headquarters of the government, killing 8 more. The only “school shooting” to ever take place happened in 2009. A nine-year-old boy fired two shots in a schoolyard. No-one was injured or killed.

Calling these awful events an American problem is a controversial statement, but it is one I am willing to stand by. No other developed country or country that is currently not at war experiences these types of incidents nearly as often. My personal belief as to why this is such a problem here is because the laws surrounding weapons are not strict enough, not even remotely. Additionally, the American people’s refusal to change the Second Amendment is costing real people their lives. Yes, people should be allowed to buy, keep and carry guns if they want to. However, there needs to be more background checks and regulations surrounding who can carry a gun both in private and public spaces. People who have a history of mental illnesses or violent tendencies should be required to complete an evaluation created by a psychologist before acquiring any sort of weapon.

A country with very reasonable laws surrounding weapons is Japan. The country has more than 127 million citizens, but there are less than 10 gun deaths per year. Japan was the first nation to impose gun laws, and pacifism has become inherent to their culture following World War 2. The laws are as follows; to get a gun, you have to attend an all-day class, pass a written test and be able to score a 95% on a shooting range accuracy test. Then they have to pass a mental check and a background check. Additionally, the government interviews friends and family to ensure that they are cleared to own a gun. The class and initial exam also has to be retaken every 3 years. Having such strict laws has reduced the number of gun related deaths to an extremely low number.

Would creating stricter gun laws reduce the number of deaths caused by unlawful use of firearms? Yes, definitely. Do I think this is doable in the US? I honestly doubt it. The idea of the right to bear arms is incredibly ingrained in many Americans’ minds, and for many, reducing this right is like taking it away completely. But that is exactly what it is; a right. It is not a necessity, a need or something anyone should take for granted. Any person who wants to carry a gun– and who believes that they are mentally sound enough to carry a gun– should not be enraged by stricter gun laws. If they are, something tells me they themselves believe they might get that gun taken away. If so, they probably should not be carrying a deadly weapon.

I think America’s society as a whole needs to change their views on guns. They are not necessary to live a normal, safe life. Instead of sending “thoughts and prayers” to the affected families, we should all be in favor of stricter laws so we don’t have to watch as children are murdered in front of our very eyes, just because some people think their right to unnecessarily carry a gun is more important than actual living people. As someone who has never before feared coming to school, it is beyond me that nothing has been done to make schools a safe place for kids to go to every day. A person who finishes their senior year will have spent over 2000 days going to school. Those days should not be wasted wondering, “Will I be the next one? Would I die for someone is this classroom? What will I do if I’m in the bathroom when it happens?” That is not why we are in school, we’re here to learn, create and become the people meant to inherit this country, this Earth when the older generations are gone. Traumatized adults cannot do that.