So far this year there have been about 320 mass shootings in the United States. That number by itself is shocking and when “real tragedy” strikes, as it did in Oregon early this October, our nation’s sorrow wells up.
Yet no matter how shocked, no matter how sorrowful we get, nothing ever changes. It is almost a formulaic reaction that our nation has to gun violence: first there is the initial terror, and then there is the solemn yet tired speech given by the president. Next someone tries to bring up how our nation needs more gun regulation, which is met with a chorus of “It’s too soon to talk about that, can’t we just grieve?” Then people try to turn the conversation towards the issue of mental illness, gang violence or terror, depending on the race of the shooter.
After this cycle the conversation dies, and we stop paying attention. Then another shooting takes place and is deemed more tragic than the others by the media. The fact is that while only some shootings are covered on the news, there has been a mass shooting almost every day this year.
From my perspective, all of the arguments for the stricter regulation of guns in our country are tired. So much so that I almost did not feel the need to write this piece; I do not have much new to add to the discussion. But at the same time this is such a sweeping epidemic I feel I can not ignore it.
In the past few months I have found myself stricken with a certain kind of fear I have never experienced before. I have always been wary of strangers but never have I been literally afraid of the lone man sitting behind me in a near empty movie theater. I have never before feared that at any moment someone could come onto my college campus and harm me and my friends.
When our nation was attacked on September 11, 2001 our government and our citizens decided that certain freedoms had to be given up to ensure safety from terror. From the Patriot Act to the rising, unbridled powers of the Transportation Security Administration, slowly our privacy from government entities were taken away, all so we could have some thin blanket of non-existent security.
Our false sense of security is an illusion. In a similar vein, the freedom we feel is gained by the right to bear arms is an illusion. The second amendment vaguely grants the right for all citizens to own firearms, and that ‘freedom’ is so saturated into our culture, so conditioned as utmost important that the fact that we have a pandemic of violence goes undealt with.
The first thing we can do is try to make sure our representatives are held accountable for their stances on firearms. That no one can get away with saying that “more armed citizens would have meant the Holocaust wouldn’t have happened,” or that “there is no way to prevent this.” In the face of the statistics, these kinds of responses are unacceptable.
We need to have an honest talk about firearms; an honest talk about the mass killing going on in our nation. Nowhere else in the developed West do gun related tragedies happen so frequently. The first step to any recovery is acknowledging the issue, and as far as gun violence goes, a majority of our nation is still in denial.