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Missouri Legislation Needs to Enact Gun Control Laws in Order to Minimize School

Illustration by Violet Newton

Illustration by Violet Newton

Since the 1999 Columbine shooting, 311,000 children have been exposed to gun violence while at school. That is over twice the entire population of St. Peters and St. Charles combined. 311,000 is almost 200 times as many students at FHN. Students are in danger and Missouri legislation is doing nothing to further prevent this. 

School shootings have become a pressing issue over the past decade. Changes are being implemented in schools all over the nation. Procedures like metal detectors being set up, administrators guarding doors and students being inspected when they enter school. These have become the norm across the nation. Meanwhile, our legislature has been ignoring us and has been passing bills that affect few. Our priority as a state needs to focus on the children. 

The children that fear going to school. 

The children who bring their phones to the bathroom with them just in case they have to send the feared “I love you” text. 

The children who are victims of our state’s neglect. 

Our country is one of three in the world that has the right to bear arms in our Constitution so it’s safe to say that the right to own guns is a prominent part of our country’s culture. It is not realistic to completely ban gun ownership, or to enforce strict gun control. However, putting laws in place that change the legal age to purchase a firearm and mandating thorough background checks in order to obtain permission to own a gun would be a start to solving the problem.

In the state of Missouri, 18-year-olds are not able to rent a car, drink alcohol or use of tobacco or cannabis products. It is unacceptable that by state law, 18-year-olds can purchase a gun but are not able to rent a car. The Missouri legislature continues to ignore mass school shootings, and focuses all efforts into upholding laws that further the unpermitted access to guns. This is irresponsible.

Making it more difficult to obtain firearms in simple ways like a thorough background check, mandating permits and waiting periods can lessen the chances of school shootings for cases where people are buying guns and bringing them into schools. Many of the people who perpetrate school shootings are facing mental health issues that have gone undiagnosed or unnoticed in the past. In cases like this the perpetrator is likely not aware of the magnitude of the actions they are committing. By enacting waiting periods, there could be time for the perpetrator to be helped by someone. And by enacting thorough background checks, gun merchants will be able to limit the amount of people buying guns that are at risk of a mental health crisis.

 It can be tricky to place exactly where students get guns from as it is illegal to purchase a gun until 18. It is pushed off as just irresponsible parents keeping guns in reachable places. While this can be true in some cases, it is actually legal for people under the age of 18 to possess firearms as long as they are purchased by an adult. This makes it legal for students in high school to possess firearms, not to mention many seniors in high school are 18 and can legally purchase and possess a firearm. 

However, the way most school shooters obtain guns is due to parents irresponsibly, putting loaded firearms in unlocked areas. This cannot be completely controlled by any means, but 23 states have passed Secure Storage Laws, Missouri not being one of them. These laws require parents to lock up firearms. A less extreme version of this law is the Child-Access-Prevention Law which penalizes parents if a child gains access to a firearm. Both of these laws are easy to enact and dramatically lessen minors’ access to guns. In studies, it has been proven that seven out of ten children that had gained access to guns were not locked up. 

Gun control does not have to be extreme, just simple bills can lessen the issue and make students feel more safe. The majority of our state legislature along with many civilians do not believe in gun control as it is usually viewed as the right to bear arms being taken away. That is not the case. This is no longer a matter of political affiliation or beliefs, it is a matter of the life or death of students. 

Whether you are reading this as a student, a parent, an educator or a civilian, taking action is the only way to get laws passed to save lives. Taking action doesn’t have to be difficult. Sending an email, a letter or calling legislators can help significantly. 

Be the change to help the children who are just looking to learn.