by Mena Mohamed
“Our thoughts and prayers aren’t enough anymore.” This is the disheartening attitude of the nation’s president in the face of one of the U.S.’ heightening crises – the prevalence of mass shootings in the country’s schools, theaters and churches. It seems that every other issue of The Raiders’ Digest, news of a mass shooting breaks out once again, and we are left to debate, to report and to deal with more loss of innocent life.
It is difficult to imagine a shooting in the place of learning we commute to and from everyday – but unfortunately statistics are not on our side, and they haven’t been for years.
President Obama stood at the White House podium on Oct. 1 to address a mass shooting in America for the 15th time since his swearing in. The magnitude of that cannot be ignored. In his statement, Obama encouraged the press to compare the number of deaths by terrorism to those caused by domestic gun fatalities, and the results are staggering. According to CNN, terrorism has claimed 3,380 lives as opposed to the 406,496 American lives taken by gun-related incidents.
Aurora. Newton. Charleston. And now Roseburg, Oregon. The number of mass shootings in the U.S. certainly supports the data as the names of victims and shooters going down in the history books for years to come.
With this comes an unlikely and unfavorable side effect; gun violence has become largely desensitized in our culture. In the words of Obama, “Somehow this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine. The conversation in the aftermath of it. We’ve become numb to this.”
The deadliest mass civilian shooting in US history with 30 casualties occurred only 260 miles away at Virginia Tech – a school many Stuart students in the past have attended. Those victims, like the ones at Newton, at Charleston and now at Roseburg deserve to hold their own in the media. Their names and stories are drowned in debates on gun control and we tend to forget that these victims had parents, siblings, friends, pets, dreams, aspirations, and more. And it is for this precise reason that their friends and families deserve more than our “thoughts and prayer”; they deserve a course of action as well, to at least decrease the chance that another tragedy like this could occur.
The shooting at Umpqua Community College has sparked, like all the mass shootings in recent history, an ongoing debate on gun control and mental illness in the US. Some feel apathy towards the matter; Republican candidate Jeb Bush spoke on the issue and noted, “You know, stuff happens.” This, in a more simplistic view, can be true. Sometimes there are bad apples in the bunch, and a shooter lacking in morals chooses to undermine the safety of our school systems and public places, but 15 mass shootings in a given decade are not isolated incidences – they imply a harrowing trend.
It is no surprise that some feel as though stricter gun control is the solution to this decade of tragedy and year of anguish. What many opposers of control argue is that stricter gun control would undermine the 2nd Amendment, which guarantees the right the bear arms in order to raise a militia if necessary. The aspects of gun control that require the most attention are those that don’t affect those who legally acquire guns for hunting, protection or otherwise. A study conducted by The New York Times found that eight of the fourteen recent mass shootings were initiated by aggressors who had had histories with mental illness, trips to psychiatric hospitals, drug convictions, and harassment charges. They were still able, under legal proceedings, to obtain guns that ended the lives of many.
It thus becomes very difficult to argue against these tamer regulations. Either way, it is necessary to start the debate somewhere and with compromises if necessary. With every shooting comes a barrage of media coverage, a period of anger and then prolonged inaction. Inaction only breeds more gridlock on the issues, and allows us to further ignore impending danger. Bring this debate to colleges, to high schools, to Congress, but most importantly do not mute the voices of these victims as we wait idly for the next American disaster.