498 and Counting
This is how I planned to start this article: One weekend, on September 23rd, I woke up to find that there was a mass shooting in Washington. A 20 year old man opened fire in the Cascade Mall in Burlington, Washington and ended up fatally wounding five people, injuring several more.
But, unfortunately, given the most recent events, I need to start over.
On September 28th, I woke up to find that there was a mass shooting in South Carolina. A teenage boy entered an elementary school and proceeded to shoot a teacher and several students. Police officers found the body of his father in the boy’s home; he, also, had been shot. I woke up the same way I woke up on June 12th, when Omar Siddiqui Mateen opened fire inside Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, slaughtering 49 people and injuring 50 more. I woke up the same way I woke up on December 14th, 2012, when Adam Lanza shot 20 children, and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I woke up the same way I woke up on December 2nd, 2015, when a married couple opened fire in San Bernardino, killing 14 people.
Many of us have heard about these tragedies, each one being dubbed one after the other as the “biggest killing of people in recent American history.” What many of us don’t know is that in just 2016 alone, over 498 people have been killed in mass shootings across the United States, while an astounding 1,370 people have been injured. I found, while researching on massshootingtracker.org, that there 4 teens were injured in a shooting on October 18 in San Francisco. Truth be told, tomorrow, 5 more will be added to that list, or 10, or 20, if people are feeling particularly frustrated or hateful or misunderstood. This gun violence has slowly transformed itself to be part of our American norm.
Although the events themselves are horrific, the most frightening part is that we, as a whole, have gotten stuck in an endless cycle. We read about it online, we talk about it at work or at school, we take moments of silence and mourn and #pray on social media. We feel sad, but not too sad, upset, but not surprised, angry but a little bit defeated. After a day, or two, or maybe three, we brush it away until the cycle starts all over again. And every time we read another article or hear another broadcast on TV, we feel just a little bit more numb. It’s not that we don’t care, or that we’re indifferent. It’s not that we don’t feel anymore, but rather that we don’t feel enough. And that’s scary. That, to me, is inhumane.
Now, let me address the NRA, who, throughout all of this, has stood by the idea that citizens having access to military grade weapons is acceptable; who, throughout all of this, has pushed Congress to veto laws addressing gun control in order to preserve the 2nd Amendment. Let me address the gun owners who, whenever they hear a whisper of the word “gun control,” band together to fight back against any sort of progress attempted to be made. Let me address Congress, who shot down President Obama’s attempt in 2013 to ban unfinished receivers, which are used to create assault weapons so often used in mass shootings. Congress, who is more worried about their own political agenda with the NRA than the lives and safety of their citizens. To all of these people, to all of these organizations: I have a question for you.
At what point will enough be enough? At what point will the safety of innocent people, the lives of innocent people, outweigh our right to purchase a gun that can fire 50 shots per round? Were the lives of the people in Orlando, the people killed by an AR-15, not enough? Were the lives of the children at Sandy Hook, children who were only six or seven years old, children who had their whole lives ahead of them, not enough? And although you don’t know them and you don’t know their names, I want you, I dare you, to tell me that the people who die every day as a result of your stubbornness, are not enough.
Nobody is asking you to collect all the guns in the country and destroy them, or to completely abolish the 2nd Amendment. Nobody is taking away your handguns or pistols or hunting guns. I understand that you want a gun for self protection, or to hunt, or to simply have. I understand that if people pass an intense background check and prove to be in perfect mental shape, they have the Constitutional right to own a gun, although they do not have the Constitutional right to kill people. What I’m saying is that citizens should not be able to get their hands on weapons that are made for war, weapons that are meant to kill, and use them against each other. To be fair, not every mass shooting occurs with a semi-automatic weapon. But, to continue to be fair, not nearly as many people would be hurt or injured if not for the use of these assault rifles. I’m saying that it’s about time that our government found the many loopholes in our already existing gun laws, and filled them.
Finally, I have something to say to the gun supporters who blame these killings on “ISIS supporters” or “immigrants” or “mentally unstable people.” These people are not unique to the United States. These people exist in every country, yet somehow, America’s death count by guns is over 5 times higher than any other country, and our gun supply makes up 42% of the world’s. So it doesn’t matter if the killer pledged their allegiance to ISIS, or if they weren’t born in America, or if they weren’t thinking straight, because no matter where you go, there will always be people with a little bit too much hatred or anger. Although in an ideal world, we could fix all of this, we can’t. The biggest problem right now is that these people who want to hurt and kill can easily do so. You can’t blame these events on people’s’ backgrounds or beliefs or mentalities; you blame them on the astounding lack of gun control laws in our country.
On October 1st, Jacob Hall, the 6 year old boy who was critically wounded in the South Carolina shooting, and who had been holding onto life for days, finally passed away in the hospital. Maybe that was enough, maybe Jacob was enough. But probably not.