Gun Violence in America and How to Change the Discussion

Over 50 people have been confirmed dead. Over 500 people have been confirmed injured. And that’s without a full and clear account of all affected victims. 

On October 1st, 2017, around 10:00 pm Pacific time, a domestic terrorist attack occurred, becoming the deadliest domestic shooting in America’s history. A so-called “lone wolf” gunman, Stephen Paddock, shot hundreds of country music festival concert-goers from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino hotel, located in Las Vegas. 

This is not new information about the terrorist; it’s been all over national news for the past 12 or so hours. So what am I doing here? 

Am I here to debate the politics of gun control? To hypothesize the terrorist’s motives? To assume his political leaning? To investigate his mental health? Not really. Nope. Hell no. No. 

Frankly, I don’t feel like giving a murderer more time and “recognition” than he’s already received. Instead of making this a long, drawn out, half-baked report of the intricacies behind the mind of a domestic terrorist and mass murderer, I’d rather focus on the larger issue at hand: mass shootings in America, and our response to these events. 

It’s no secret that America’s fascination with guns is akin to children anticipating gifts on Christmas morning. We Americans love our Constitutional rights and will fight to the death to defend them – especially Amendment #2. Politics aside, America has a serious issue with the lack of gun control and prevention of mass terror events like the tragedy in Las Vegas. 

Though the domestic terror attack in Las Vegas is traumatizing, this is not our first “rodeo”. Yes, we are all in shock and sadness over the countless deaths and innumerable injuries innocent people are suffering. And yes, we are praying and sending condolences to the “victims and their families”. We are changing our Facebook statuses and profile pictures to that of the Las Vegas Strip, illuminated by a glowing filter. We are posting tweets and snaps about how terrible this tragedy is. But what are we actually doing to prevent something like this from happening again? 

Until today, our most recent mass shooting happened quite recently: June 12th, 2016 at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Publicized as a massacre fueled by hate for gay men and an attack on the gay community, we all knew the “reason” and motivation behind that mass shooting. But since the Las Vegas shooter’s excuse for murdering over 50 people (and counting) and injuring 500+ others is still “unknown,” people start making up lies and unfair assumptions to justify his unjust actions, claiming he belonged to X political party or believed in Y faith system; he had “mental health” disorders or he was bullied or mistreated as a child, and so on. 

None of these reasons justify mass murdering anyone, let alone people unaware of their surroundings. These people were targets attacked from above without a chance for escape. There was no indication of anything awry other than the piercing sound of endless bullets coming at them full-force – for some, too late. 

Americans tend to want a REASON why murderers murder, and then chalking up said “reason” to a certain aspect of belief, a certain sense of hatred, a certain motivating factor that may not always exist.

Though this tragedy is still fresh and unraveling before our very eyes, even if or when we get a REASON why this person attacked innocent people, it won’t change the process of taking action beyond a recycled conversation about how these events are tragic and “should be prevented”. 

We will again listen to politicians debate the necessity of gun control. And we will again listen to people screaming “DON’T TAKE AWAY MY RIGHTS!” And we will again listen to the victims speaking out against this act of terror. 

And we will again do what we always do: we will turn the TV off, change our radio stations, re-tweet our politician of choice, and forget about this tragedy in a month’s time. You might shrug and say, “well, what am I going to do about it? There’s nothing I can do to help!” But is that really the truth?

Regardless of your political beliefs, we should ALL be outraged not only that mass shootings have happened, but that they continue happening – and in increasingly greater amounts as time passes. There ARE preventative measures that can and should be taken to try and limit, if not completely eradicate, the potential for people with murderous intent to get their hands on weaponry (not needed by your average citizen) used simply to harm other citizens.

Our 1st Amendment rights should be protected. However…

  • We should be vigilant and speak up if we notice someone who expresses signs of serious mental illness who may have the potential for using their illness to hurt others.
  • We should acknowledge and prevent people who disguise hate speech as “free speech” from acting on their words and intimidating others.
  • We should de-stigmatize seeking help for mental illness and promote it by making it a normal, regularly-discussed activity so that those who need help receive it. 

Our 2nd Amendment rights should be protected. However…

  • We should have stricter gun laws that screen all people who intend to purchase firearms in order to make sure the buyer is of sound mind and clear mental health.
  • We should make buying automatic and semi-automatic weapons illegal to the general public as these weapons should only be used by and made for the military.
  • We should stop labeling domestic terrorists “mentally unstable” when we’d readily label a non-American-born shooter as a terrorist based on their skin color or religious affiliation.

Perhaps if we all contribute to society at large by becoming more vigilant, active, concerned Americans, our interest in the betterment of society will supersede the presence of unstable people who have no interest other than the destruction of American unity.

In the meantime, continue posting condolences and sharing your sympathies and prayers. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. These little acts of kindness do shine a small light of hope on the victims, their families, and the tragic situation. But instead of asking “why” or becoming desensitized to the increasing number of domestic terror attacks happening in the United States, do more than you’ve been doing. Be active. Speak up. Take small steps to recognize and diffuse potential future terrorist attacks on our land. And let the world know that we ARE the United States of America, and we will no longer self-divide.

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