Who Pulls the trigger, if it’s not the guns?

Maggie Harvey


There was a time in my life that I, and I hope you, didn’t have to worry about the strangers driving past our schools, or the kid in the back of class who doesn’t talk to anyone. We didn’t have to look over our shoulders to see if someone was following us. Taking public transit on the way home from school was an opportunity for people watching, not observing the bulging pockets, and wondering if that person had a gun. Going to a concert was getting lost in a crowd, not wondering if someone was pointing a semi-automatic rifle at you.

At least 59 people were killed and over 500 people were injured in a mass shooting late Sunday night, Oct. 1, at a country music festival in Las Vegas. On ABC News, the Clark Country Coroner, John Fudenberg, has reported to the press that the death toll will most likely go up. The shooter, 65-year-old Stephen Paddock, smashed the window of his 32nd floor hotel room at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and shot at a crowd of 22,000 concert goers that were enjoying music across the street. His victims included police officers, teachers, nurses and children. CNN reported that he was an accountant and, according to his family, he gave no indication of extremism, political or otherwise. By the time police stormed his hotel room, he had died of a self-inflicted gun wound.

So now begins the well-known cycle: most of the country asks how this could have possibly happened, the other thinks they know exactly why and, again, posts on Facebook calling for stricter gun control, and the final portion grabs their hold of their weapons and starts posting on Facebook about their constitutional right to own such weapons. In the shooter’s case he grabbed at least 41 guns. CNN reports that police found at least 23 military grade weapons in the shooter’s hotel room, and at least 19 more in his home. The website violencearchive.org reports that this was the 273rd mass shooting of this year, and the second of that day.

I am afraid. In the aftermath of the 273rd mass shooting this year, that’s reasonable, don’t you think? I’m sure a majority of the country is afraid too. But I’m afraid and oh, so angry. In researching the event so that I could have an informed opinion, I came across the rampant cry for gun rights. The constitution gives American citizens the right to guns, you say. The Second Amendment protects me, you say. I honestly cannot fathom how—in any universe—looking at a death toll of any amount of people and parroting out the Second Amendment seems like a sane response. How can you watch videos of 22,000 people screaming under the sounds of rapid gunfire, or see the pictures of dead teenagers and concert-goers lying on the blood—soaked asphalt, and say that this is “the price of freedom?”

To those unfamiliar with the nitty-gritty of the Second Amendment (though, after some of the most lethal mass shootings in modern American history, I hope you are) I’ll try to lay out some of the basics. Verbatim, the Second Amendment reads, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Basically, for use in a state regulated, militarized group, and for the protection of the country, one has the right to keep and use guns. In case you didn’t notice, this didn’t translate particularly well over the past 250-ish years. Now the Second Amendment is used as a blank check; the National Rifle Association (NRA) pays blood money to Senators and civilians kill people during citizen’s arrests. Then, gun owners shout, like they’re telling on a preschooler, that they have the right to protect themselves. Of course we need the guns, the government is coming for us, and we need to be ready! It’s in the rules! 

Tell me, what exactly are you protecting yourself from? Will you protect your neighbors when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) comes to deport them? Or are you protecting yourself from Trayvon Martin, the kid in the hoodie eating a bag of skittles? Maybe it’s Tommy Le, the kid holding a knife, but after you shoot him, you see the knife was a pen all along? 

Or maybe it’s Scout Schultz, the suicidal college student who didn’t want to hurt anyone but himself. Perhaps you’re protecting yourself from the woman who just said no to a date, or the intruder that you thought was in your bathroom but really was your girlfriend. What was your toddler protecting herself from when she found your gun in your open safe? 

What were two high school students protecting themselves against in 1999, when they walked into Columbine High School and killed 15 people? What was a man protecting himself against when he entered Sandy Hook Elementary School with a gun in 2012, and then proceeded to kill 28 people? What was a man with 23 guns protecting himself against when he began shooting at a crowd of 22,000 people from his empty hotel room?

These weapons aren’t for protection. The pistol you carry in your purse can’t kill 15 teenagers and teachers in the span of an hour. The shotgun you use to scare coyotes away from your property can’t kill 20 children and 7 teachers in the span of five minutes. 

The hunting rifle you use in your yearly hobby can’t kill 59 people and injure 200 others in the span of 10 minutes. The people behind the trigger were the ones to use the weaponry to kill people violently and painfully. But after each and every one of the hundreds of mass shootings, I still hear that citizens have the right to protect themselves. 

So, I’ll keep protecting myself. I’ll watch strangers out of the corner of my eye and wonder if they have plans to hurt me. I’ll keep wondering if the guy behind me is following me or just walking the same direction. I’ll read the articles on how to protect yourself during a mass shooting as the numbers for gun violence continue climb. I’ll walk across campus and decide how I would escape if someone began shooting at me. And I’ll pretend it’s normal. I’ll pretend that this society is not slowly finding ways to murder one another. And I’ll pretend that I’m not afraid.