It’s been one year since America went from its last deadliest shooting to the next. That doesn’t just happen. Last year, 49 people were killed and 58 were injured at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. This year it’s 58 people and 527 injured at the Las Vegas strip. When will it stop? When will we stop being satisfied with well-wishes and prayers and start taking action on these problems? When will enough be enough?
I learned how to shoot my first BB gun when I was 12 years old, my first rifle when I was 16. As someone who has grown up to value the rights our second amendment grants us, I appreciate the technique and the intricacies needed to not only handle a gun, but to also take care of it and keep it in a safe condition. While I was being trained, I was carefully instructed on how the gun always needed to be pointed down and kept on safety if you weren’t shooting it. Responsible gun owners know this and will treat their weapons as if it’s always ready to shoot to kill. One of my family members actually fired a gun for the first time in her life this past summer and started crying. When we asked her what was wrong, she said “To think that just like that… a life can end.”
I thought about what she said during this month’s horrible turn of events. Do we weigh the loss of life as much as we need to every time we pick up a gun? Do we respect the deadly power that it comes with? Or is it just a fleeting detail, hidden behind all of today’s controversies and current events?
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t stricken with grief in a time like this. What kind of human being wouldn’t be? We tell ourselves that what happened wasn’t preventable, that if a man wants to commit an act of violence, he would do it with or without a gun. That much is true. Our nation’s most horrific terrorist attack on September 11th, 2001 was done with a few box cutters and four plane hijackings. Before that, the worst terrorist attack was carried out by Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City, where he killed 168 people by parking a truck bomb in front of a federal building. Evil intentions aren’t disarmed when you take the bullets out of a gun. As Tyler Joseph observes on the Twenty One Pilots song “Heathens,” “Just because we check the guns at the door doesn’t mean our brains will change from hand grenades.”
Still, it’s foolish to ignore the mountain of evidence that America has become one of the deadliest nations in the world. How deadly? Since 1966, there have been at least 131 mass shootings in the United States. Almost half of them have occurred since 2006. Out of established nations in the world, the U.S. ranks 31st in gun violence. 3.85 per 100,000 citizens died due to gun violence last year alone. In the United Kingdom, that number is .07. The majority of the perpetrators in these shootings are white males, and most of their weapons were obtained legally. Stephen Paddock is only one man out of a tribe of monsters. After the traumatic attack in Las Vegas, police found a total of 23 guns in his living spaces. All of them were legal purchases.
So let’s put these facts into perspective. The amount of mass shootings in the United States are growing in both frequency and fatality. I repeat: mass shootings are happening more often in America and with more casualties. This is not an anti-gun advocate saying this. This is a proponent of gun rights saying this. We had our deadliest shooting last year with 49 dead. It barely took a year to dethrone it. What does that pattern spell for our nation’s future if we allow this to continue?
Yet, the scariest thing to me is not the ongoing threat of gun violence in the United States: it’s the silencing of it. After the Las Vegas shooting, you would think people would respond to this violence and put more careful regulations in place to monitor gun sales. They haven’t. It’s now been a month and congress has demonstrated no initiative in addressing this constant stream of gun violence in the states. Funding for gun violence in the Center of Disease Control has gone down by 96% since 1996, with only $100,000 allotted on its budget. And the Dickey Amendment, which continues to restrict research on gun violence statistics, remains active with no indication of being overturned. How can we even begin to discuss solutions to these issues if we aren’t educated or informed on the statistics regarding these shootings?
I’m not saying we should have a general ban on automatic weapons in the United States. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t either. Gun control is a very layered issue, and with any issue like it, we need to talk about them in-depth to find the right compromises that satisfy both right-wing conservatives and concerned Democrats. Doing nothing and remaining silent about it is irresponsible and disrespectful, especially to those families who lost loved ones in Las Vegas, Orlando, or in any of the other mass shootings. We have plenty to disagree about in our nation: healthcare, immigration, the economy. The well-being of our citizens should not be one of them.
A point observed to me earlier this week was that Paddock used bump-stock on his rifle during the attacks to turn it from a semi-automatic weapon to an automatic. A friend of mine suggested that congress should discuss banning bump stocks in the United States, considering that would be banning a gun part as opposed to a gun itself. Fine. Great. That’s a fantastic place to start the conversation, but let’s have a conversation. Continuing to bury it threatens greater and more devastating tragedies to happen in the future. Is that when we’re finally going to talk about the issue? When hundreds are dead and families are left grieving?
Do not let this issue get buried. If we do, we threaten to bury our own loved ones with it.
– David Dunn