Everyday it seems I hear about another mass shooting, another disturbed teenager wielding a firearm at innocent people before killing himself. I am not being sexist – it is almost always a him. I hear about them, I discuss the horror of the situation with friends and family, I, maybe, sign a card to the victims while at school enjoying my lunch. Then I go on with my day only to repeat the same chain events later in the week when the next shooter strikes.
Network television broadcasts these mass murders with small disclaimers about graphic violence. Movies romanticize the events with heartstring stories about the victims and horrible circumstances giving rise to the killers. Video games give pale seven years olds and middle-aged men the chance to commit heinous, meaningless acts of violence over and over again.
I am bothered by these events just enough to not think of myself as a bad person. I never shed a tear, I never think about it as I wait for sleep to encompass me, I never fall into my mother’s arms and feel like I can’t go anywhere without her. I never knew what it felt to be truly bothered by violence until I saw it right in front of me. I saw a man get shot four times and I saw him collapse to the ground and I saw his blood pumping out onto the asphalt and I saw the look of terror on peoples faces and I saw the mass mob run and I saw the town I grew up in flooded with lights of red and blue. I heard one gun fire, four times, and injure one person and to me, no trauma could compare. That event changed me. I now look for the quickest exit whenever I enter a public space. I think ‘survival of the fittest’ in crowds and wait on edge for someone’s primal instincts to surface. I wonder will my photo appear in People Magazine next to a small blurb about a life taken too young. Hearing the sound of the gun, smelling blood, smelling fear, running for my life has left me feeling small and inconsequential.
Now the news stories of people ducking behind objects as dozens of their classmates fall to the ground, or a prayer in church being interrupted by the terrible sound of death, leave me thinking, hoping for a better future. I talk about them, I think about them whenever I am alone, I empathize with the victims and hate festers for the perpetrator. With horrific violence thrown at me from every direction, it took one small pistol and four tiny bullets to wake me up, and to see death not as a number of victims, or a list during the Oscars, or a moment of silence, it made death into something real, tangible.
For an act of gun violence to be considered a mass shooting, four or more people have to be shot at roughly the same time in roughly the same location. According to ABC News, the U.S., in 2018, experienced 323 mass shootings – almost 1 a day. These shootings resulted in the death of 387 men, women and children and left 1,274 people injured. This does not take into account the thousands of victims with psychological issues. People got shot at school, church, the local deli, holiday parties, yoga studios, even hospitals. Obviously we have a huge issue, yet those who have the ability to write law and limit gun usage refuse to do so.
They refuse, or hesitate or skirt around gun control because of a strong well funded group of individuals and corporations which scream “2nd Amendment” when even the smallest limitation, such as a chip which enables a gun to be fired only by the registered owner, is mentioned. Let’s talk about the 2nd Amendment. The 2nd Amendment was added to the constitution in 1791. In 1791 women had no rights, blacks were enslaved, and old white men ran America. If we find the values and morals of the 1790’s to be preposterous, why then do we keep the right to bear arms? In fact, the amendment gives people the right to bear arms to form a regulated militia to protect the state. Not the right to walk into a Wal-Mart and open fire because you are having a bad day. What was once necessary does not make it always necessary.
To the people who say, “guns don’t kill, humans do,” I point them in the direction of Australia, a country founded by criminals, that banned guns. Since they banned guns, there have been no mass shootings. No unwarranted deaths. Look at New Zealand, a country with a ‘right to own gun’ sentiment similar to our own. Two horrific shootings at two mosques by one crazy individual left the country reeling. Before the government could even discuss changing law citizens voluntarily came forward and forfeited their firearms.
When will it be too many children dead on their playground, when will it be too many lunchbox notes never read, when will it be too many families lives destroyed, when will it be too many ‘safe spaces’ tainted with blood, when it will it be too many cries for help?
How many dead will be enough?