You Could be Next

by Jasmine Berger
You Could be Next

“‘We’re going to die here. We’re going to die,’ Carmen Algeria thought as she dodged gunshots raining down on her while witnessing people drop left and right.”

“We’re going to die here. We’re going to die,” Carmen Algeria thought as she dodged gunshots raining down on her while witnessing people drop left and right. “About five feet to the left of me there was a man with a bullet wound to his chin. My jeans were covered in someone’s blood, my T-shirt was covered in someone’s blood, my sister’s whole leg was covered in blood.” In the face of this crisis, citizens unified, and after the initial shock, they began to move. The civilians who did not obtain injuries ran to their cars to transport people to the hospital while others directed people to safety. Men grabbed Algeria and her sister and lifted them into trucks. “Bodies were literally being tossed on top of us,” Algeria said. Blood covered every inch of the emergency room. The bodies of victims littered the floor. Gunshot wounds riddled the victims’ bodies. “All I could describe it as was a war zone,” said John Kline, an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department (Carcamo et al.).

This scene depicts one of the hundreds of stories from people at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas on October 1, where the deadliest mass shooting in US history occurred. Thousands of Americans witnessed and survived incidents similar to Carmen Algeria’s. In the past 275 days, 273 mass shootings have occurred. Since Las Vegas alone, six more mass shootings (four or more people killed or injured) and 240 shootings (under four) have terrorized the United States (“Mass”). But according to our president and leading politicians, no solution exists. The loss of life apparently equals the price to pay for the right to bear arms. The US cannot politicize this event; instead, Americans should come together and mourn, solely sending thoughts and prayers. Despite politicians’ intentions, these tactics disrespect the victims of shootings by preventing change from happening. When 521 mass shootings have occurred in the past 477 days (“477 Days”), the only time to talk about gun safety is now.

Mourning the victims of mass shootings and politicizing the event must occur simultaneously. America has the capability of doing both. Many politicians send “thoughts and prayers” and urge Americans to mourn. They discourage people from talking gun politics, which supposedly polarizes the country. President Trump advised, “we’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes by. Today we mourn.” Via this logic, the topic of gun rights will finally come up in political discourse the day an American is not fatally shot. Unfortunately, if America continues its current gun policies, this day will never come: at least one mass shooting happens daily in the United States, and ninety-two Americans die from gun violence every day (Kristof). Thus, the lack of conversation about gun violence will continually inhibit progress in terms of safety in public settings.

In other spheres of life, enactments of precautionary steps maintain safety, and gun laws should mimic this model. For example, fire alarms, smoke detectors, and fire drills combat the potential of deadly infernos. Airbags, seatbelts, and highway guardrails combat deadly auto accidents. Even the minuscule, by comparison, dangers of a ladder, which kills 300 people a year, have seven pages of regulations in the Health Administration guidebook (Kristof). However, not only has the government prohibited research on gun safety, but also the administration has deemed the mere discussion as un-American. Over and over again this country faces mass shootings, and each time politicians send their condolences. But nothing changes, and the cycle continues: Mass shootings horrify Americans, and outraged citizens demand sane policy. Yet, eventually a bigger story blows up somewhere else in the world, the news stops discussing gun laws, and sane policy still has not materialized. Then it happens again; only this time, more people die. When no discussion of mass shootings occurs, Americans can expect to continue to see death at the hands of guns.

Common sense gun laws should naturally pervade bipartisan policy. Both sides of the political spectrum agree: 79% of Republicans and 88% of Democrats want background checks for gun shows and private sales (Fingerhut), and 80% of Democrats and Republicans want mandatory background checks, five-day waiting period for gun purchases, and a mandatory registration of handguns (Smith 156). Yet these policies languish in Congress, despite the fact that they have bipartisan support. Why? Because the NRA, the largest lobbyist group in the country, makes sure the passing of these regulations never occur. During the 2016 election cycle, the NRA gave 5.9 million dollars to the Republican Party (“Gun”). The same candidates who received money from the NRA also voted to allow people on the no-fly list and mentally disabled people to purchase guns. However, 89% of Democrats and Republicans believe the mentally ill should be prevented from purchasing guns, and 82% of Republicans and Democrats believe gun purchases should be barred for people on the no-fly list (Oliphant). Politicians repeatedly put their campaign needs over lives of citizens. The NRA and the politicians they support essentially value power and money over life. By advising people to mourn instead of discussing gun laws, these NRA backed congressmen commit the very action they protest against — politicizing mass shootings. By sending thoughts and prayers without action, policymakers fulfill the desires of the NRA. Via prioritization of the NRA, politicians make the gun debate a polarizing issue. If politicians put aside their greed and corrupt tactics, they would listen and reform policy in accordance to the people’s needs.

America needs more gun regulations. The constant mass shootings that the US face every single day proves the necessity for gun restriction. However, some fear that reforms will potentially lead to a ban on all guns. Gun safety proponents warn against the straw man “extremist agenda.” In reality, there is no desire to take away the rights of citizens to buy guns. Instead, proponents simply want a more difficult and thorough screening process. They want more background checks, a mandatory five-day waiting period, and limits on assault and semi-automatic weapons. People (who have mental stability and do not appear on the no-fly list) can still have their handguns and rifles for hunting and protection. But no reason exists for common citizens to own automatic weapons. The sole purpose of automatic weapons is simply to kill many people quickly and efficiently. And again, both sides of the political spectrum agree: 77% of Republicans and 90% of Democrats want background checks for private sales and gun shows, and 54% of Republicans and 80% of Democrats want to ban assault-style weapons.

These types of reforms have reaped benefits in Australia, Britain, and Canada. When faced with mass shootings, these modern countries crafted laws that basically eliminated the threat of guns to public safety. For example, in Australia, a gunman shot and killed thirty-five people in Port Arthur. The public’s response was outrage and persistence on change. The government responded with a ban on almost all automatic and semiautomatic rifles as well as shotguns. They implemented this with a gun-buyback program. John Howard, the Prime Minister said, “we won the battle to change gun laws because there was majority support across Australia for banning certain weapons” (Bilefsky et al.) Both Australia and American have majority support for tighter gun laws — the only difference: the NRA.

In order to combat the NRA and corrupt politicians, we must speak out. We cannot allow politicians to put their own needs in front of ours any longer. We simply cannot continue to go on this way. If we do, America will continue to suffer through shooting after shooting, death after death. We can mourn and send prayers, but if we want the shootings to stop, we also must act. Now.

 

Works Cited

Bilefsky, Dan, et al. “How Australia, Britain and Canada Have Responded to Gun Violence.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 2 Oct. 2015, www.nytimes.com/2015/10/03/world/americas/australia-britain-canada-us-gun-legislation.html.

Carcamo, Cindy, Tchekmedyian Alene, Mather, Kate, Winton, Richard. “Survivors from California Recount Their Terrifying Escape from Danger in Las Vegas.” Los Angeles Times, 4 Oct. 2017, www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-california-survivors-las-vegas-20171004-story.html.

Fingerhut, Hannah. 5 Facts about Guns in the United States. Pew Research Center, 5 Jan. 2016, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/01/05/5-facts-about-guns-in-the-united-states/.

“Gun Rights: Money to Congress.” OpenSecrets.org, The Center for Responsive Politics, 2016, www.opensecrets.org/industries/summary.php?cycle=2016&ind=Q13.

Kristof, Nicholas. “Preventing Mass Shootings Like the Vegas Strip Attack.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 2 Oct. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/10/02/opinion/mass-shootingvegas.html?rref=collection%2Fcolumn%2FNicholas%2BKristof&action=click&contentCollection=Opinion&module=Collection®ion=Marginalia&src=me&version=column&pgtype=article

“Mass Shootings.” Gun Violence Archive, 2017, www.gunviolencearchive.org/reports/mass-shooting.

Oliphant, Baxter. Bipartisan Support for Some Gun Proposals, Stark Partisan Divisions on Many Others. Pew Research Center, 23 June 2017, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/06/23/bipartisan-support-for-some-gun-proposals-stark-partisan-divisions-on-many-others/.

Smith, Tom W. “Public Opinion about Gun Policies.” The Future of Children, vol. 12, no. 2, Children, Youth, and Gun Violence, 1 July 2002, pp. 154–163. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/1602745?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents.

“477 Days. 521 Mass Shootings. Zero Action From Congress.” The New York Times, The New York Times, Editorial Board, 2 Oct. 2017, www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/10/02/opinion/editorials/mass-shootings-congress.html.

 

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