Mass killings have come to dominate American news headlines. It seems that only a few weeks ago, this editorial covered the grisly Las Vegas shooting that left 58 people dead and 546 injured. Recently, the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas was struck by tragedy: 26 people killed execution-style and 20 injured.
It is an incredibly difficult conversation to begin. People say that such events should not be politicized — let the families mourn in peace. We did not see this coming. We are shocked that this person was capable of such atrocities. Give us more time. Now is just not the right time.
To which I must ask: when is the right time? Refusing to talk about these events plays into creating a taboo in which legitimate discourse is silenced. Change, any sort of change, is not an option at the table of silence and suffering. These events need to be met with rational minds and preventative measures. Make no mistake: America has a gun problem. Even though a local civilian managed to shoot the South Texas gunman twice as he left the church, it did not play out like many pro-gun enthusiasts envisioned it might. A significant loss of life occurred, even though the ‘good guy’ stepped in to save the day. This critique does not detract from the heroism of such an individual, but rather the argument that the only way to prevent a ‘bad guy’ with a gun from committing atrocities is by having a law-abiding citizen with a gun.
Here’s the general premise: remove the cause and you remove the effect. In other words, guns cause gun violence. Remove guns, or the ability to easily purchase guns, and you’ve just dealt a blow to mass killings here in America. The one variable that explains the high rate of mass shootings in America is guns. It seems like a no-brainer, but this simple fact is an important one.
Let’s look at the statistics. According to gun-control.procon.org, the United States has 88.8 guns per 100 people, or about 270,000,000 guns — the highest total and per capita number in the world. This is most likely attributed to America’s foundational background: frontier living and stringent belief in the second amendment. It’s created a culture of gun lovers and advocates, and wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing if these terrible instances weren’t a routine occurrence. From 1966-2012, roughly one-third of the gunmen were American, according to a study done by Adam Lankford, a professor at the University of Alabama.
Extrapolating further, America’s gun homicide rates were significantly higher than the average among developed countries — roughly 33 per million people in 2009. The New York Times writes that: “Americans sometimes see this as an expression of deeper problems with crime, a notion ingrained, in part, by a series of films portraying urban gang violence in the early 1990s. But the United States is not actually more prone to crime than other developed countries, according to a landmark 1999 study by Franklin E. Zimring and Gordon Hawkins of the University of California, Berkeley. Rather, they found, in data that has since been repeatedly confirmed, that American crime is simply more lethal. A New Yorker is just as likely to be robbed as a Londoner, for instance, but the New Yorker is 54 times more likely to be killed in the process.”
It’s glaringly obvious. There could very well be mental health issues, cultural issues, and factors outside of a mechanical device that contribute to the problem, but they are dependent variables. At its source, the real issue comes down to guns and how they are used in this country for their true purpose: lethal force.
Now is not just the time to mourn — now is the time to think critically, and then act.