On February 17th, seventeen people were shot dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. Although undeniably heartbreaking, it is certainly not the first shooting that has occurred in the United States. According to the non-profit organization Gun Violence Archive, in 2017, 61 524 gun related incidents occurred in the United States, among which 346 of them were mass shootings. Yet, I am sad to say that however grievous these incidents are, such events are no longer shocking.
Whenever one hears of calamities such as the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High or at Las Vegas or at Orlando, you tend to think: “Oh, another shooting…,” and forget about it soon afterwards. It is sad, but it would seem death by guns has almost become an integral part of daily life. This way of thinking is frightening, because it appears that the violent loss of human lives has become somewhat unimportant or usual. After this shooting, so many people have spoken out against the lack of gun control, demanding stricter legislation including background checks. But, hadn’t the population already done so previously? Every shooting is followed by indignant protests against the government, and the government always promises to fix the problem. Yet, soon, you won’t hear anyone talking about the shooting, nor will you find that anything has been done. Who speaks of Orlando or Las Vegas anymore? Who remembers Sandy Hook or First Baptist Church? Who will remember Douglas High five years from now? These shootings will be forgotten along with the rest, until we are reminded of them by the next shooting. Many problems prevent effective action from being taken. Leaders propose a set of solutions to the gun violence problems, but they do not work or are simply not implemented.
A few weeks ago, Trump had promised to propose legislation to “fix” the gun violence issue. A few days ago, he backed away. The new legislation he is proposing will “fund programmes to train school staff to use firearms, encourage military veterans and retired police officers to become teachers, and improve background and mental health checks,” according to the BBC.
First, when the problem is violence, you cannot solve it by a demonstration of more violent behaviour. In my psychology class, we have been learning about behaviour. It has been shown on many occasions that violent behaviour on behalf of role models induces violent behaviour in children.
Second, many argue that guns help the individual citizen exercise their right to self-defense. Let’s take Canada’s example. Canadians are only allowed to have guns if they have a permit. That means that a significantly smaller proportion of the population owns them. Without denying that Canada sees its share of gun violence, I believe we are just as well protected, if not more, than our southern neighbours. Furthermore, if the purpose of allowing your citizens to own guns is selfdefense, why the need to own more than one gun or to have military-type assault weapons such as the AR-15 semi-automatic rifle? There is a great difference between the force necessary for selfdefense and the force that results from assault weapons and the ownership of multiple guns.
Third, it has also been argued that guns cannot be completely banned, because they have become a part of American culture. I do not believe that anyone would be proud of having mass shootings define their culture. Yet, that is what will slowly come from the increasing gun violence.
All these measures are clearly missing the target: the problem with gun violence are the guns. If you don’t take away the guns, the violence will remain. End of story. You cannot put “stricter” measures for gun purchase and give more guns to more people and expect gun violence to disappear. That is not how it works. I realize that it is no doubt something very difficult to tackle or even admit for some people, but that is simply how matters stand.
However, it would be unfair to place all the blame for the inaction on individual members in the government. An issue with capitalist societies is that it allows companies and corporations to become very powerful. Perhaps even a little too powerful. These big corporations can influence the policy of a government through their great lobbying. That’s what is also occurring in the US. The National Rifle Association spends millions of dollars in lobbying. According to the BBC, the NRA has officially spent a little more than 3 million dollars in lobbying in 2017. Small wonder effective measures are not taken to solve the issue. But, governments and government officials are not blameless. After all, they should ask themselves who they serve: the heads of big corporations, or the people that elected them to represent their voices?
I have said all that I had to say, and now it remains for the people to take permanent action, to not allow the memory of all the shootings to fade away, and to let the government know that it works for the people. I only wonder, how many more people will have to die for America to understand? How much more blood will have to be spilled for real action to be taken?
Virginia Rufina Marquez-Pacheco
Science & Tech Editor
Originally published in Bandersnatch Vol. 47 Issue 10 on March 14, 2018