On Sunday Oct. 1, there was yet another mass shooting in America that took the lives of 58 people and wounded 500 others. Mass shootings are defined as any event where four or more people are shot. As of Oct. 2, there have been a total of 273 mass shootings for the year of 2017 alone. On average, there is a mass shooting every single day in America according to a report conducted by CBS News. With each new tragedy, the country as a whole seems to become more numb. After the massacre in Las Vegas, the cycle has begun again. A cycle where first millions are outraged and the sentiment briefly empowers citizens to stop the violence before enough time passes and people inevitably move on to the next big news story. And then another mass shooting occurs and starts the cycle all over again.
As reported by Newsweek, “There have been more than 11,600 deaths linked to gun violence so far in 2017, which is roughly equivalent to nearly four 9/11 attacks in terms of the total number killed on September 11, 2001. Comparatively, more than 15,000 were killed by gun violence in 2016, and there were 383 mass shootings.”
Whenever a mass shooting occurs and claims the lives of multiple innocents, the gun debate rises up again in the public’s collective consciousness. The country has experienced this with the Sandy Hook shooting (28 killed, 2 injured), the shooting in Orlando last year (49 killed, 58 injured), and countless other tragedies preceding Las Vegas. The Las Vegas shooting has already been reported by newsmedia outlets as the largest mass shooting in American history conducted by a lone domestic terrorist. Before more details about the incident and its shooter, Stephen Paddock, had fully come forth, people from all walks of political life had already spoken out either for or against tighter regulations on firearms.
Both Democrats and some Republicans have been calling on Congress for more background checks and to pass legislation that would make the process harder for the mentally ill to get their hands on semi-automatic weapons. So far this has been blocked at every turn. In February, President Trump quietly rolled back Obama-era legislation which if enacted would admit people on Social Security with mental illnesses and others “deemed unfit to handle their own financial affairs” to a national background check database.
President Obama had proposed the regulation after the Sandy Hook shooting as a direct response to the incident; a way to outright block people with mental health problems from easily gaining access to guns. Opponents of the bill maintained the legislation infringed on Second Amendment rights and was therefore unconstitutional, however gun control advocates lauded it as step in the right direction for the country.
The United States is leading the world “in terms of firearms per capita—with 88.8 guns per 100 people—and it has the highest homicide-by-firearm rate in the developed world.” According to Newsweek and a June 2017 study published by the journal Pediatrics, gun violence “is now the third leading cause of death for children in the U.S. An average of 1,297 children die annually from gun-related injuries,” 33,000 deaths per year are attributed to gun-related incidents and nearly two-thirds are suicides.
On the Las Vegas shooting, RMC senior Matt Thomas states, “I was devastated when I heard the news. I found out about it the morning after it happened and texted my family and friends right away. We all hear about these shootings and terrorist attacks that happen, but they feel unrealistic until it happens to a place you call home or somewhere close to loved ones.”
Thomas was heartened by the community outpouring as a result of the shooting. “Many people think of Vegas as just a vacation spot, but it’s known as a ‘small big city’ because of the tightness of the community.” said Thomas.
“The day after the shooting the lines outside of blood donation organizations were 6-8 hours long and they eventually told people they couldn’t take anymore blood. As far as guns go, I am a bit stuck in the middle of the debate. I think that everyone has the right to own a gun but the fact that the guy [Paddock] had 10 automatic rifles in his hotel room is insane.” Thomas said.
Justyn Juhl, an RMC senior whose mother was at the concert when Paddock attacked, states, “I got a text from her that night around 11:30 and she said ‘There was an active shooter and I’m ok.’ so I was shocked and wasn’t sure where she was or what it meant really. I turned on the news and my heart just dropped. I immediately called her. Luckily, she was in her room but separated from her friends so she was in a panic mode. She said she was anxious and felt helpless watching down on the crowd as she heard and saw people scattering for their lives.”
“We later found out her [Juhl’s mother’s] friend’s son had lost his life that night as he was shot in the back. A military war veteran who served our country ironically was shot and killed on American soil. It’s a horrible tragedy,” states Juhl.
“Gun control on the other hand is a hard topic. I believe everyone has a right to a gun. I believe that they can be used for protection as well as hunting. Should someone be able to own a gun of mass destruction like what was used in this mass killing? I don’t believe so. I also don’t believe it [tighter regulation] will stop people from getting ahold of them.” Juhl says.
On Oct. 2 Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the current White House Press secretary, deflected when asked about the gun control issue stating “There is a time and place for political debate, but now is the time to unite as a country.” Her statement has left some Americans asking the question of when is the appropriate time and place to talk about the issue if not now.
How many more Americans have to die?