I will turn 21 next month. During my time on earth, I have been a witness to four separate events that have surpassed each preceding event as the “deadliest shooting in United States history.” These include the Aurora, Colo., movie theater (14 lives), Sandy Hook, Conn., (28 lives), Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., (49 lives), and the most recent in Las Vegas, Nev. (59 lives). So, what exactly is happening in our country? The evidence supports that mass shootings are becoming not only more prevalent, but increasingly more deadly. The main question demands an answer, what can anyone do to stop these events?
Mass shootings are strictly an American problem. For relevance, a mass shooting is defined by the United States Congressional Research Service as a “public shooting in which 4 or more people are killed or severely injured, excluding the perpetrator.” According to a study done by Jaclyn Schildkraut, there were 133 murders in America classified as a ‘mass shooting’ from 2000-2014. This listing was followed by Germany with 6 and Canada with 3. This problem in America could be compared to the Lernean Hydra from early Greek Mythology, with its ever-growing heads. Causes of mass shootings are difficult to pinpoint, and some diagnoses have been the amount of guns our citizens have at their disposal, the unaddressed problem of mental illness, our sensationalized media and the inaction of our politicians in the face of crisis.
Sheer minutes after the events in Las Vegas began, I was hit with multiple breaking news headlines addressing the incident. A few hours later, I noticed an increase in articles and tweets from some asking to not politicize the incident. At first, I agreed with this, as many politicians can express or try to promote their own political agenda in the face of a tragedy. But this is a fine line to walk because the government is supposed to address crises. We, the public, have to hold politicians accountable, pushing discussion for the best strategies to solve complex problems that individuals or organizations cannot fix. How can this dramatic increase in public shootings be addressed if consistent inaction holds the country hostage?
The saying “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people” is a saying in America. An update of this quote should include something along the lines of “People kill people at a much higher rate with more access to guns.” It should come as no surprise that more guns equate to more deaths. Let’s take New York and Louisiana for example. But this example is one of multiple factors that tie into an increase in gun ownership. After one of these mass shootings occurs, the profits of the National Rifle Association (NRA) shoot up every time. Out of fear of the government placing a stricter gun law on citizens, gun sales increase. Notably, most of the gun-rights advocates (like the NRA) stay quiet after these events, while gun control proponents get loud to demand a change.
Every time a shooting happens our nation has a brief, if not devastatingly ineffective conversation about gun control that is overshadowed by another story. We weep; we scream; we become desensitized, and we repeat the cycle. Contacting our elected officials is the most important action we, as civilians, can take to hopefully ensure that no parent has to hear that their child has been shot at a place they thought was safe. Write, call, email, badger these officials constantly because it is their job to listen to our cries and find a solution. Because soon, we, the future leaders of America, will be those elected officials. We should understand sooner rather than later that change only begins once we all welcome it.
Last July 31, 2016, the new Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was opened to the public after the previous one was demolished. There is a green magnet on a refrigerator located in the new building that states, “This school will be more about the future than the past.” If the citizens of Newtown can come together and bounce back from pure tragedy, then all of America can too.
Everyone has to come together to find a plausible solution, or else innocent lives will become just another statistic.