Sing that Song: A Review on the State of Mass Violence in America in Light of the Orlando Shooting
Friday, December 14, 2012. 9:35 a.m.
A man carrying an assault rifle shoots through a glass panel and proceeds to interrupt an elementary school’s morning announcements with a barrage of gunfire. When all was said and done, 27 would be declared dead, including the gunman himself. The shooting would become the deadliest mass shooting at a grade school in U.S. history. Of the victims, 20 were children. Twenty families went home that night without their children.
Sunday, June 12, 2016. Around 2:00 a.m.
A man carrying an assault rifle and a pistol hangs up his cell phone after a speaking with a 911 operator. He then proceeds to open fire in a nightclub, killing 49 and wounding at least 53 before being fatally shot by police. The shooting would become the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history and the deadliest terror attack on American soil since September 11th, 2001.
We have a sickness in America. This isn't an argument that pervades both conservative and liberal mindsets. This is a fact. We rank highest in overall gun ownership in the world. Sorry, liberals, but this isn't the sickness. We are also a fairly diverse nation, with many clashing ethic groups across the entire country, and a strikingly high crime rate as well. But this is an internal issue, mostly not the result of foreign terrorism, so sorry, conservatives.
We have a love of guns like no other country in the world. Liberals may think this is a bad thing, while conservatives see it as a testament to what makes our nation great. So who’s right?
We clearly have a mass shooting problem, so let’s get rid of the guns, right? Australia did this following the Port Arthur massacre in 1996, which left 35 dead as a result of weapons like the AR-15. To be exact, the prime minister simply made gun control vastly stricter than it was prior to the attack, forbidding ownership of shotguns, semi-automatic rifles, among other restrictions and licensing requirements. And it worked for them – they’ve had no mass shootings since.
The problem: Australia isn’t America. It lacks the same cultural diversity and societal dynamic that brings forth our own issues of violence. Australian comedian Jim Jeffries argues that by making guns illegal, the country forced black market weapon prices to skyrocket, and therefore impractical to purchase. Perhaps in Australia, but in America, black market weapons are around $100 more than retail, which can be attributed to our high trade capacity as well as our geographic location. Put simply, Australia’s situation cannot be replicated in America.
Continuing with our love of guns, conservatives have a tendency to bring Switzerland into the equation, a European country with a gun policy unlike any other. The majority of their male population between the ages of 20 and 34 is conscripted into the military and trained in the use of such weapons. At the conclusion of one’s military service, you get to keep the guns. Free guns lead to a high ownership rate, and a relatively low rate of crime. It must be this high gun ownership rate that creates such a peaceful country, right?
The problem: keep in mind this is Switzerland, which also lacks the same cultural diversity and societal dynamic that brings forth our own violence problems. Not to mention, since 2008 Switzerland is now complying with European Union gun control policies, and these policies may get tighter as a result of a number of recent shootings involving, you guessed it, army-issued weapons. Automatic weapons have also been illegal, but that’s neither here nor there.
So here we are again. But maybe it’s not the guns – perhaps it’s the buzzword in politics as of recent: radical Islam. After all, the Orlando shooter allegedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State prior to carrying out his atrocity. We can even go back to the San Bernadino shooting with similar ties to ISIS.
Since the events of 9/11, more American lives have been lost in mass shootings by white males than domestic terror incidents. Though there obviously is a major problem when ISIS enters the conversation, it’s not likely that they’re the sole cause of our mass shooting epidemic.
We can talk about possible solutions all day, from one side to the other. We’ve heard all the same arguments, and all the same conclusions. We’ve reached the same point: America is unlike any other country in the world, and, thus, has a problem unlike any other country in the world. But the cause of the problem isn’t our susceptibility to terrorism or our love of guns. It’s hard to cure the sickness when you don’t know the cause. However, the symptoms keep recurring. Though we have other problems, such as overall violent crime, which is comparable to the impact of these mass shootings when placed on the whole scale, it’s the increasing recurrence of these shootings that is the cause for concern.
President Obama has now given 15 addresses following mass shootings, something that no one should have to do even a single time. Though day to day tragedies permeate our lives, it’s these statistics that others use to reduce the impact of such mass shootings. And it’s because of our own cities’ violence and societal disturbances that these mass shootings quickly fade to the rear view once they’ve played out their media coverage. Here is where we find an even worse problem.
Far worse than any mass shooting or act of terror or violence is complacency: accepting these events as we accept other maladies of society that are supposedly irreparable. A prime example: poverty. It’s always been there, it always will be, right? So we should do nothing about it? This is where we become worse than the perpetrators of such atrocities.
The biggest point we can take away from the Orlando shooting isn't an argument against guns or for guns, or against an ethnic group of people, or what is societal norm of the day. The most important takeaway is the date of the attack. Four years after a massacre of school children, we are experiencing yet another shooting. Why has nothing adequate been done to amend our situation and prevent these atrocities? Of course, we’ve passed legislation and progressed at stopping the bleeding, but what we have to realize is that there is a bigger problem, rather than covering it up and treating the symptoms.
The worst part of this problem is the solution has yet to be identified. However, it’s one thing to see a problem and find that the solution is difficult to achieve, but it’s another to just give up and do nothing when you realize you're in this situation. Our government has done various things here and there to mend these situations and prevent further occurrences, but it has clearly proven to not be enough. This isn’t an attack against the government, this is a diagnosis of us. We as a society have to see that something must be done, rather than just watching the media coverage and calling it a tragedy, but seeing it as the norm.
Get involved in the political process to push for solutions. Engage in civil dialogue and even just try to find solutions. If you're able, donate blood and other necessary supplies to those affected by these tragedies. Send condolences to the affected families, but also vow to do what you can to push others to move towards the change that ensures these events never happen again. Most of all, do something. Do not stand aside and watch as bad things happen. As we move to finding a solution to this problem together, the least we can do is make an impact for other individuals and their families. Though our country has a problem, it’s a problem we share together, and it’s one we must solve together.
"The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.”
- Albert Einstein