We know that on August 3, 22 people were gunned down at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. The gunman’s victims ranged from the elderly to a teenager. A husband and wife both died while shopping for school supplies and shielding their infant son. Several other victims were also married couples. And those who died were from both sides of the border.
We also know that nine people were shot and killed the following day in Dayton, Ohio in another mass shooting. One of the deceased was the gunman’s own sister.
And we know that a 6-year old was gunned down at a festival at yet another massacre—this one in California—just the week before.
We know these facts because our news feeds are flooded with them. We know the shooters were men. We know they came to the scenes of their crimes heavily armed, prepared to kill as many as they could.
And yet, despite all of the information we can all collectively agree to be true, after every single one of these shootings, we as a nation separate and return to our divided sides—pro gun and anti-gun. Or pro-gun control and anti-gun control. Or “I can have whatever weapons I want because the Constitution says so” and “No one should have an assault rifle that can kill so many people in seconds.”
So here we are again. The NRA remains strong. Groups like Moms Demand Action and Sandy Hook Promise keep fighting. And soon, in the news, inevitably, there will be another story of a mother throwing herself over her child to protect him from a spray of bullets.
So what are we going to do, America? WE ARE KILLING EACH OTHER. Can we at least agree on that? Tourists are scared to come here for fear of being shot at a festival, concert, or even the grocery store. Parents are afraid to send their kids to school and are buying bullet-proof backpacks while their kids practice live-shooter drills in kindergarten.
This country was cracked open by Columbine. And shattered by Sandy Hook. And we never get a chance to heal, to repair, to glue ourselves back together. Because of Parkland. Santa Fe. Thousand Oaks. Las Vegas.
You know the names. We can go on forever, unfortunately.
And now, in the wake of the most recent tragedies, we’ll hear again that “guns don’t kill people—people kill people” and how this isn’t a “gun issue” but rather a “mental health issue” and that “criminals won’t follow the law anyway” so we shouldn’t bother passing gun control legislation. We’ll hear people blame video games, the breakdown of the traditional American family, or even the LGBTQ community.
This is why nothing gets done. This is why nothing gets better. The NRA and gun-obsessed Americans are so damn frantic to protect their triggers and their bullets that they’ll blame anything and everything, even the idea that Americans can legally marry whomever they love. It’s ridiculous.
Those who make these excuses don’t want to hear the facts. Because truthfully, it’s not that complicated or hard to understand.
But here are the facts, again, in case someone is out there, on the fence, ready to listen. Ready to hear the actual root cause for the 31 people killed last week, or the thousands killed just this year alone.
Every developed nation in the world has teens playing video games.
Every developed nation in the world has citizens fighting mental illness.
Every developed nation in the world has divorce, single parents, and LGBTQ citizens fighting for their rights.
Every developed nation in the world has criminals.
America’s rate of gun deaths is 10 times that of other developed nations, a number that continues to increase every year.
The Washington Post reports that before the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, mass shootings took place roughly every six months. Between Columbine and Charleston, the pace was roughly one every 2½ months. After Charleston? One almost every six weeks.
Now? 2019 is on track to average over 1 mass shooting per day.
America is a nation where a 19-year old in Florida who had a history of emotional, behavioral, and disciplinary issues, including being expelled from his high school, and over 140 contacts from school and mental health counselors, could walk down the street and purchase an AR-15 without any real effort. No waiting period. No training. As easy as buying milk and eggs. Can’t buy beer yet though—that’s something a 19-year old can’t do. But an assault rifle? No problem.
This is not okay. This is not acceptable.
Here are some other alarming stats:
– U.S. gun homicide rate is 25 times that of other high-income countries.
– Women in the U.S. are 21 times more likely to die by firearm homicide than women in other high-income countries.
– The U.S. gun suicide rate is 10 times that of other high-income countries.
– Firearms are the second leading cause of death for American children and teens (after automobile fatalities).
– 100 Americans die from gunshot wounds every day.
We can throw numbers around all day, but the difference between the United States and other developed nations always comes down to one thing. It’s not mental health. Or video games. Or immigration. Or gay marriage. Or people not going to church. Or whether moms work or stay at home. Or whether families are rich or poor.
It’s their ability to have a gun in their hand so readily. Imagine if these shooters didn’t have access to guns. Or even if they had a harder time getting them, like having to pass a background check, or endure a waiting period, or take gun safety training, or be told that due to their white supremacist views they’d plastered all over social media, they were denied gun ownership until they took racial sensitivity training and proved themselves to be mentally fit for such a responsibility.
Would these mass shooters still massacre people via another method? Maybe. But as a nation, we sure aren’t making it hard for them, are we?
Another fact that many pro-gun Americans do not want to accept is that background checks MAKE AMERICA SAFER. In states with a solid background check system, more than 3.5 million illegal gun sales have been blocked in the past 20 years. Unfortunately, half of all Americans still live in states where a convicted felon, domestic abuser or fugitive can skip a background check by finding an unlicensed seller at a gun show or online.
Connecticut passed a law requiring all handgun buyers to pass a background check both at the point of sale and as part of a permit process, and saw a 40 percent reduction in the gun homicide rate and a 15 percent reduction in the gun suicide rate.
On the contrary, the state of Missouri proves what happens when background check legislation is repealed, as is it saw a 27 percent increase in its firearm homicide rate and a 16 percent increase in its firearm suicide rate.
Legislation to regulate online gun sales and sales at gun shows could have saved Sara Schmidt, who was killed by her husband, a convicted felon who purchased a gun online. Or it could have saved Valerie and Dewayne Jackson and their six children, who were killed by a man with an extensive criminal history who also purchased a gun online. Or it could have saved Christina Franklin, who was killed in front of her children by her ex-boyfriend, whom she had a restraining order against. He, too, purchased a firearm from an unlicensed seller.
Do we need to address mental health in America? YES. We need better resources, funding, and training for the professionals treating those with suicidal or violent thoughts. But do you know what we don’t need? Diverting the attention from what will actually help and stigmatizing those we mental illness in the process.
We need guns out of the hands of the unstable, the violent, and the mentally ill. Guns out of the hands of abusers, those with a criminal history, those with restraining orders against them, and those with a history of behavioral and disciplinary issues.
The facts really are clear, here. It’s not complicated. America is in a national shoot-out and no one knows who or where will be the next target. Another school? Church? Movie theater? Concert? Festival? Walmart? As long as we continue to hand guns so easily over to anyone angry, unstable person who asks, none of us are safe.
Check out our powerful interview with Diane Rinaldo of Moms Demand Action for information on how to work for change.