Gun violence has increased dramatically in the United States over the last few years. With over 300 shootings this year alone, including one in Uvalde, Texas that killed 21 elementary schoolers and teachers, gun control has taken center stage on Capitol Hill.
Although there is some bipartisan compromise, most gun control efforts have been stunted by conservative lawmakers. Republicans tend to advocate for controlling gun violence without controlling guns themselves, usually defending their arguments with the Second Amendment, which guarantees the ability to own guns. Some conservative solutions have been dismissed due to their irrationality, but two solutions have consistently been proposed and can be evaluated for predicted effectiveness on gun violence.
The first proposal is increasing security at schools with more firearms; specifically, by arming the teachers themselves. Advocates, including former U.S. President Donald Trump, argue that training teachers to use firearms would be a deterrent to possible mass shooters. Furthermore, shootings could be stopped quicker because schools wouldn’t have to wait for police to arrive, and could instead fight attackers themselves.
A 2021 poll found that 43% of Americans supported policies that would allow teachers to carry firearms in schools. However, the majority of parents, teachers and students, who are those most affected by this proposed policy, were opposed. Most Americans believe more firearms in schools would make them more dangerous environments; there are very real concerns of students stealing weapons, staff using firearms too liberally and overall increased hostility.
Arming just 20% of teachers would include thoroughly training almost 650,000 of them, which is a huge logistics concern for many. These safety and logistics concerns make it very unlikely that giving teachers guns would be worth the risk, or that it could even be a viable bill.
The second proposed conservative solution seems more realistic on the surface: addressing mental illness. After mass shootings, many investigate the attackers’ mental health on the basis that one would have to be very disturbed to commit mass murder. Indeed, the U.S. Senate's bipartisan gun violence package aims to increase mental health resources to prevent gun violence, including mass shootings.
Top conservative politicians, including Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, repeatedly emphasize mental illness as a main mass shooting cause, regardless of whether mental health issues were detected in attackers. However, these same politicians also consistently weaken systems that help the mentally ill. For example, congressional Republicans have fought to shrink medicaid, and Abbott's administration has reduced the Texas Health and Human Services Commission- both help provide mental health resources. Already, this solution is weakened by contradicting actions.
The Michigan Psychological Association also found that fewer than 10% of mass shooters had a serious mental illness. Furthermore, focusing the cause of gun violence on mental health further stigmatizes the mentally ill and risks them being incorrectly generalized as violent and dangerous. This data is consistent with many other studies that show mental health is not a main factor in gun violence, and targeting it only in the context of shootings could do more harm than good.
Conservative hypocrisy on aiding the mentally ill and data disproving mental health as a cause of gun violence make targeting mental illness weak both in theory and practice. Although this proposed solution has proven very viable in Congress, its impacts on gun violence (especially mass shootings) are predicted to be small. It seems that emphasizing mental health and ignoring the guns themselves is a tactic to stop gun control; looking at the lack of effective national legislation on mass shootings, it’s working.
There are many more proposed solutions to curbing gun violence, including limiting school entry points, installing “man traps” and “returning to God.” With each more outlandish than the last, only one solution is avoided: controlling the guns themselves.
Partisanship and ineffective proposals flood the gun control landscape. This makes it no surprise that the U.S. surpasses every rich nation in gun violence by a landslide, with the only difference between it and other countries being that others have much stricter gun control. It’s time to stop beating around the bush with unrealistic solutions: gun violence needs to be stopped by limiting the weapons themselves.