Mass Shootings and Stricter Gun Control
In the wake of the Charleston church shooting, I can’t help but be reminded of Columbine, Fort Worth, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Ft. Hood, Isla Vista, and the countless other mass shootings that have happened in our country’s history. I can’t help but think of the recent exponential increase in tragic, race-driven crimes committed by citizens and corrupt cops.
Many try to explain away our problems by merely identifying the killers as mentally ill.
In a few cases, that is the truth.
But perpetuating that mental illness is the only problem just stigmatizes those who truly are mentally ill. It labels them as “dangerous.” It deters those who truly need help from actually seeking it. It makes mental illness out to be something that is wrong or bad.
People use mental illness as a scapegoat because they don’t want to acknowledge that these crimes find roots in racism, sexism, and homophobia. The few who are trying to make a positive difference and solve these issues of hate and prejudice are outweighed by the many who have just been sweeping it under the rug for years.
These are the real problems we need to address and bring to light. We need to have more open dialogue. We need to work together and unify, now more than ever. We need to face this hate head-on and say once and for all that judging someone by the color of their skin, by their genitalia, by how they identify with themselves, or by who they choose to share a bed with is wrong and will not be tolerated.
I’m not naïve. We can’t just snap our fingers and magically make hate go away. There are always going to be crappy people in the world who are always going to spew their vitriol.
Such is life.
We can try our damnedest every day, as individuals, to get one step closer to a “more perfect union,” but unless greater initiatives and steps are taken in our communities and by our government, we won’t see change. And even then, change will be slow and complex.
Getting rid of ingrained racism, sexism, and homophobia takes time, but we have dangerous mass shooting and scary life-threatening situations in our country right now.
I can’t help but think about those poor souls in Charleston, who went into their church for bible study. They went to pray. They went to see friends. They went to connect with their community.
They invited a complete stranger into their midst out of the kindness of their hearts.
They didn’t deserve what happened that day. No one deserves that. They deserved to die a quiet death in their sleep at the ripe old age of one-hundred. Not at the hands of a deranged hate-filled terrorist.
To think of the horror, pain, and grief that the victims felt in those last moments. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.
To think of those who survived, who had to watch their friends and family die. The fear and trauma and survivor’s guilt of that day that continues to replay in their minds.
Their lives will never be the same.
I’m sure my thoughts mirror the sentiments of everyone in this country: ‘What if, tomorrow, this is me? What if I never get to accomplish all that I want in life? What if I leave my home one day and never come back? What if I go out to meet my friend and days later find myself watching their coffin lowered into the ground?’
These are scary realities we have to face every day.
So, what can we do to stop the madness?
What do we do to make sure innocent people who step out their door in the morning will make it home in the evening, safe and sound?
Hate and prejudice are so hard to fix.
But, gun control isn’t.
Now, I realize I speak from an interesting perspective, as a person who has never fired or owned a gun and has no desire to do either one of those things in the future.
There are many who use guns legally for sport or hunting. I respect the freedoms granted to them by our government. But, gun-owning citizens must equally respect mine and other’s dislike of guns and our desire to rid the world of them, or at the very least, better restrict and regulate them.
As we all know, certain freedoms exercised responsibly by some citizens have been exercised irresponsibly by others and can negatively affect the public at large. Therefore, we have to change and adjust our laws to protect lives and better our society.
We don’t want drunken teenagers hurting themselves and those around them, so we made the drinking age twenty-one. People get into car accidents, so we regulate the speed limits and adhere to roadway laws. Smoking is addictive and bad for public health, so we prevent young people from starting the bad habit by making the purchase age eighteen.
In the United States, the rate of mass shootings has tripled since 2011 and the number of race-related cop incidents has increased from 860 in 2014 to 1,092 in 2015, a 21% increase.
There are many countries, such as Australia, Japan, Norway, and the UK, that enforce strict gun laws. These can range from banning guns completely to banning guns with the exception of sport or hunting to allowing guns, but with vast restrictions, requirements, and regulations. These countries have nearly eliminated the number of deaths by gun violence.
When the subject of gun restriction is broached in this country, many argue that as a US citizen it is our constitutional right to bear arms and protect ourselves.
Which is true.
But, that’s the beauty of our Constitution. It can be changed. That’s why we have amendments.
Way back when, we had an amendment that prohibited alcohol for the better part of a decade.
And then we ended Prohibition by repealing the eighteenth amendment with the twenty-first amendment.
We amended the amendment.
Plus, in terms of protection, how many people are locked, loaded, and ready with a gun to protect themselves?
Even Chris Kyle, the real-life “American Sniper,” was shot and killed while he was armed at a gun range. If one of the deadliest snipers in American history can’t save himself, who can?
And if you are a responsible gun owner, what do you do in an unexpected violent situation when facing a robber, mugger, rapist, or terrorist? Ask them to stop while you take the safety off your gun and load?
Or tell the criminal who is breaking into your home to wait as you enter in the passcode to your safe, take the gun out, undo the safety, and load?
The idea behind ‘freedom to bear arms’ was to offer citizens protection when forming a militia and rising up against a corrupt government or defending your homestead against the British. But, in a world of government drones, heat seeking missiles, and nuclear warheads, protecting yourself with guns seems a little silly.
We can’t end racism now.
We can’t end sexism and homophobia now.
We can’t end violence and crime now.
We can’t end hate now.
But, we can craft better gun control legislation.
If we further restrict and regulate gun usage, for both civilians and our police, prejudiced and sick individuals will have no tools with which to act upon their hate.
We need to stop and re-evaluate our priorities.
We need to value lives more than guns.