Tag Archives: Orlando

Pulses of the Nation

CREDIT: David Goldman / AP

One year.

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

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May The LGBT With You

I’m Christian, I’m straight and I want more gay characters put on film.

After the horrible shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, a petition was recently created to put more gay characters on film in honor of those whose lives were lost. More specifically, they’re petitioning that gay characters be introduced in the upcoming sequel to the 2016 science-fiction epic Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

This idea might seem too radical or progressive for most of conservative America, especially when you look at the overwhelming majority of heterosexual protagonists in today’s films. Yet, I think now is the right time to introduce gay characters into mainstream film culture, and Star Wars is the perfect franchise to do it in.

According to a 2015 Gallup survey, 63 percent of Americans think homosexuality is morally acceptable. 60 percent are also in favor of same-sex marriage. Both numbers are a massive increase from the respective 38 and 35 percent numbers in the 2002 survey.

In other words, not only is homosexuality growing in America: its support is growing just as fast.

This provides an opportunity for Hollywood, an opportunity that means much more than just cultural impact. Earlier this year, Star Wars: The Force Awakens grossed over two billion dollars, a rare achievement that it shares with Titanic and Avatar. That’s significant for more than just the number. Out of all of the films that grossed over a billion dollars, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is one of the few to have a female protagonist, and one of the even fewer to have a black protagonist. Finally, the Hollywood myth of the tall, muscular white protagonist selling more tickets is debunked through a female jedi and an African-American stormtrooper taking on the galaxy.

We’re moving in to a day and age where diversity is not only supported- it sells. For Hollywood to stop the train now while at the peak of its popularity is only selling itself short.

Why do I care about all this? I’m not an active supporter of gay rights, nor am I socially inclined towards the LGBTQA agenda. What stake do I have in the sexual orientation of our favorite movie characters?

Simply put, I want something different. For years, I’ve had to stomach the same images of a white, heterosexual actor running from explosions, driving cool sports cars, shooting firearms, kung-fu fighting bad guys and making out with hot supermodels. I’m sick of the pretentiousness. I’m sick of the same moldy, tired, regurgitated images, and I’m sick of seeing the same Tom Cruises, Mark Wahlbergs, Ben Afflecks, Bruce Willises, Matt Damons and Liam Neesons doing the same crap over and over again. 2015 was a diversity revelation not just with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but also with Mad Max: Fury RoadStraight Outta ComptonThe Hunger Games and many others.

While I’m personally not a supporter of gay rights, I am a supporter of human rights. That means representing the human race in its entirety, with all of its diversity and uniqueness intact.

I love movies. I love Star Wars. But more important than either of these, I love period. So does the homosexual community. We love all of these things, regardless of our sexual orientation. Why can’t we share our love of these things together?

– David Dunn

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