Gun Control and School Safety
Cody Hill was only 11 years old when he saw a woman shot
and killed before his eyes. He says he will never forget it.
Since then, the Oregon teenager has been active in educating
kids about the dangers of handguns.
When Oregon started its own Ceasefire program, it successfully
encouraged thousands of people to voluntarily turn in their
guns. Inspired, Cody helped launch his own program that encouraged
children to turn in their toy guns. It was also a success.
Each year, more than 500 children and teens are accidentally
killed by guns. More than 99,000 men, women, and children
are wounded. Handguns make up 80 percent of all firearm homicides.
Two-thirds of the 41 students who took part in school-shooting
incidents since 1974 got the guns from their own home or a
relative's home. Some of the guns were even gifts from the
students' own parents.
A Dangerous Fascination
Why are so many teens fascinated by guns? Why do so many
teens turn to guns? Here are only some of the reasons.
- They see guns as a way to solve problems. They
believe a gun will make them feel better. They do not stop
to think that violence is not the answer. If they use a
gun, they risk hurting or killing another personand
possibly even themselves.
- They see guns as glamorous. Exposure to guns in
the media makes them seem attractive-sometimes even harmless.
Guns are shown and used in films, TV shows, and computer
and video games.
- Some have easy access to guns. Guns are kept in
many homes. In a survey, 40 percent of students said they
knew how and where to get a gun.
The History of Gun Control
Many people think guns should be outlawed completely. Some
believe in stricter gun laws. Still others feel every person
has a right to own a gun.
What is the history of the gun control issue? It can probably
be traced all the way back to the U.S. Bill of Rights. The
Second Amendment right to bear arms has different meanings
to different people.
As more and more people began to own guns, violent crimes
in which guns were used increased. Lawmakers began putting
more restrictions on gun ownership to try to help reduce the
Today, it is against the law to sell a handgun to a person
under 21 years of age. It is also illegal to sell any child
or teen firearms or ammunition. The laws on buying a gun,
and on the kinds of guns that can be bought, vary from state
The Brady Bill and Beyond
The Brady Bill was first implemented in 1994. It required
a waiting period for all people who wished to buy a gun. By
1997, the number of violent crimes committed with a firearm
fell 25 percent.
In 1998, the waiting period was replaced by instant background
checks done by computer. That year, the Brady Bill helped
prevent 400,000 illegal purchases of guns.
Trigger locks are now required on all newly manufactured
handguns. Some states, such as Massachusetts, want to require
guns to pass certain tests. For example, the trigger must
require at least 10 pounds of pressure to pull. This would
make the gun too hard for a child to use.
Teens Speak Out
Education offers one solution. A number of school programs
are teaching kids and teens what to do if they see a gun.
Students also learn what could happen if they handle a gun,
as well as nonviolent ways to control anger and solve conflicts.
The lesson appears to be "taking." Teens are making
themselves heard on this controversial issue. More teens than
adults seem to support gun control.
A 2000 poll of high school students found that 90 percent
think all newly purchased handguns should be registered and
that all buyers be licensed. Eighty-nine percent said anyone
who buys a gun should be required to pass a safety course.
More than half the students favor stricter gun laws.
Even if you do not have a gun in your family's home, you
can stay safe by following these basic rules.
- If you find a gun, don't touch it. Tell an adult.
- If you are going to a home that you know has a gun, make
sure your parents know first.
- A gun is not a toy. Even toy guns should never be aimed
at another person.
Just the Facts
- Describe two of the reasons why teens are attracted to
- Tell what the Brady Bill has accomplished to date.
- What are two of the basic rules of gun safety?
Beyond the Facts
- According to the article, many experts believe education
is the best way to prevent gun violence. Do you think it
is the only way? What other methods can you think of?
- The National Rifle Association is the largest gun ownership
lobby in the United States. Using print or online sources,
find out the NRA's stand on gun control. What is their point
Applying the Facts
Do your own survey at home on the number of guns and other
firearms shown on television. With pencil and paper, watch
a two-hour block of television in the evening. Choose action
shows or police shows. Keep track of the number of times you
see a gun or other firearm. Total your findings. Did the result
surprise you? How do you think gun violence in the media affects
children and teens? Share your views with your classmates.