Biting the Bullet: Gun Rights in America

As my family and I drove to our Airbnb along upstate New York’s quiet country roads, my Instagram page stopped loading, and so did Google Maps. Evidently, the service had gone out. We soon entered a driveway in an effort to update our location and regain service. The homeowner, a middle-aged white male, hurriedly came out his front door and approached us. As he questioned what we were doing in his driveway, the man unzipped his Carhartt jacket to expose a gun. 

Guns are becoming an increasingly severe problem in America. In April, only two days apart from each other, two innocent individuals were shot. Ralph Yarl, a 16-year-old Black teen, was one of the victims. While on his way to pick up his siblings, Yarl rang the doorbell of the wrong home. Andrew D. Lester, an 84-year-old white homeowner, immediately decided to shoot two bullets at Yarl.  

While there is no video footage of the encounter, in a CBS News report, Yarl gave his statement claiming that he simply rang the doorbell of Lester’s house and quietly waited. As the door opened, Yarl did not see his siblings, but rather, he saw a gun. Fortunately, Yarl was able to survive the incident and is now in stable condition. However, he had to endure a bullet to the head and experienced unforgettable trauma.   

In an interview, Lester claimed that he had just gotten in bed when he heard the doorbell ring. His first instinct was to pick up his gun and check what was going on. In his statement to the police, Lester claimed that Yarl was pulling at and banging on the door. Due to his assumption that someone was trying to break into the house, Lester shot Yarl twice within seconds of opening his house’s doors. Later, Yarl was forced to yell for help around the neighborhood after Lester shut the door back in Yarl’s face. In court, Lester pleaded not guilty. 

Two days later, 20-year-old Kaylin Gillis similarly entered an incorrect driveway while looking for a friend’s house. Upon realizing it was the wrong house, she started pulling out of the driveway. However, two shots were fired at her by Kevin Monahan, 65. One of the bullets hit Gillis, killing her. In a New York Times article, Jeffrey J. Murphy, the local sheriff, described the situation to be unprovoked as “there was no threat. They were leaving.”

The majority of gun owners link their right to bear arms with their liberty. According to the Pew Research Center, 74% of gun owners see this right as essential to their rights as Americans. When a generous percentage of homeowners believe that guns provide protection, it is more likely that the individual is going to exercise this freedom and method of “protection” by carrying their guns with them when the doorbell rings.

A study, conducted by The Harvard Inquiry Research Center between 2001 and 2003, revealed an immediate correlation between the availability of household gun ownership and homicide rates. The mere existence of guns increases the risk of homicide because it is found to have a victimizing effect on the gun owner. 

In 2021, the states who had the most gun-related deaths were Mississippi (33.9 per 100,000 people), Louisiana (29.1), New Mexico (27.8), Alabama (26.4) and Wyoming (26.1), according to a Pew Research Center study. Taking into account that these states are ones where guns are highly accessible and where household gun ownership rates are high, there certainly appears to be a correlation between how states with greater rates of gun ownership had disproportionately large numbers of deaths from firearm-related homicides.

Given that the U.S.Constitution is taught to nearly all students throughout the country, the U.S. Education System sets up the upcoming generations to believe that “‘the right of the people to keep and bear arms,” is a right that shall not be infringed” (Second Amendment)

When asked for student opinion on whether disputes on gun accessibility shouldn’t be viewed as a political matter, Mia K.’24, a student who was in the Understanding Gun Violence elective class last year, explained, “I think that in an ideal world, both politicians and public health organizations could work together to establish a set of guidelines and restrictions on firearm sales: the types of guns sold, the processes put in place to purchase one, and due diligence on ensuring the mental stability of not only the individual buying the gun, but those in their household.”

While the New York man never pulled his gun on my family, there is little doubt that the accessibility of guns is a growing problem in America. To get involved, reach out to local politicians and fight for change. It is up to our generation to produce change, and ultimately protect our lives. 

Elif Caliskan ‘25, the author, is a staff writer for The Grace Gazette.