By Linda Cheung and Elizabeth George
On March 5, a group of sophomores from NHP’s science research class placed second in the Medical Marvels Research Competition, hosted by Northwell Health. The Medical Marvels program is a yearly competition that challenges freshmen and sophomores to find solutions to modern-day problems, such as substance abuse, limited access to clean water, and vaccine hesitancy. This year, the task was finding solutions that can alleviate the gun violence epidemic that the United States has been experiencing for the last few decades.
“...67% of gun owners cite protection as the primary reason for ownership of a firearm, yet data shows that firearm ownership and possession puts families at higher risk of death and injury...”
The students in the science research class worked collaboratively for weeks before the team finalized on B.E.A.M’s (Background check reform, Education on Gun Safety, Advertisements, Mental Health) proposed strategies, which include several precautions that can be taken to reduce the instances of this uncontrolled violence. This included doing in-depth research in small groups about events and causes, pre-existing laws that have been proven effective, and ones that have failed, as well. All the students in the class then wrote research papers and six students were chosen to continue to the Medical Marvels competition. These underclassmen spent numerous hours on group calls to fuse their strategies in a way that would be most effective.
Source from Ms. Angela Stone
The Medical Marvels team, led by science research teacher Ms. Stone, consisted of six sophomores: Elizabeth George, Priya Persaud, Izhaan Ahmed, Paul Wang, Sahara John, and Ayesha Rashid.
While the group was forming and merging their plans, they encountered various problems. Since the group included students with a variety of political stances, they struggled at first to find a balance among their ideas. Although it took some time and discussion, the researchers tried to understand their differences and appreciate their similarities.
They found that a major barrier to finding solutions for crises like these is the fact that two sides cannot peacefully approach each other to genuinely listen to the other side’s viewpoints. In response, the Medical Marvels team worked hard to include ideas from both sides of the controversial argument of gun control.
The team proposed many solutions with plans to institute statewide B.E.A.M. initiatives, such as implementing a two-week waiting period on the purchase of a firearm and mental health evaluations prior to a firearm purchase. Some other solutions include a mandated purchase of a safe, trackers on firearms, and fingerprint identification to fire the gun. The researchers concluded that by taking a holistic approach to gun violence through these methods, injuries and deaths can be reduced in a fully comprehensive fashion.
On March 16, 2021, Robert Aaron Long walked into three spas in the Atlanta area and opened fire, killing eight people, six of whom were of Asian descent. In response to the incident, Cherokee County Sheriff Captain Jay Baker told reporters that Long just had a “bad day.”
“He was pretty much fed up and kind of at the end of his rope. Yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did,” said Baker.
Moreover, on March 22, 2021, Amad Al Aliwi Alissa shot 10 people inside King Soopers, a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado. Alissa bought what looked like a black AR-15 style gun called a Ruger AR-556 six days before the shooting. The shooter had a history of mental illness symptoms, including delusions and paranoia of people following or chasing him.
“The gun violence epidemic is a serious and scientific problem. It has proven to also be a contentious issue, and, although I was a committed contrarian in the group and argued in terms of civil liberties, it seems very evident that there are some measures that can and should be put in place, i.e. gun locker legislation,” said sophomore Izhaan Ahmed.
“The researchers concluded that by taking a holistic approach to gun violence through these methods, injuries and deaths can be reduced in a fully comprehensive fashion...”
Since a vast portion of gun violence occurs due to suicide and unsafe storage, solutions like a mandated purchase of a safe, a two-week waiting period on the purchase of a firearm, mental health evaluations, a mental health hotline, and other resources would significantly decrease the amount of gun violence that occurs due to these reasons. According to officials from the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence (EFSGV) organization, 67% of gun owners cite protection as the primary reason for ownership of a firearm, yet data shows that firearm ownership and possession puts families at higher risk of death and injury. The team found that mandating the purchase of a safe, a firearm can be safely secured within the household and prevent gun violence to some extent. Furthermore, more than 60% of gun deaths are suicides, with nine out of 10 firearm suicide attempts resulting in death. Implementing a two-week waiting period prior to the purchase of a gun would help prevent firearm suicide.
However, many people argue whether these strategies will actually be effective or if they are realistic.
“I feel like this wouldn't be possible. There needs to be regulations on the illicit trade. A plausible solution would be the use of smart guns, which use the owner’s fingerprint to be able to fire,” said freshman Prescilla Ferri.
“I believe that there should be increased waiting periods for gun purchases as these can result in decreased suicide and homicide rates. We can work to ban assault weapon availability to the general public as these weapons are consistently epidemic to shootings within the United States,” said freshman Sania Daniyal.