Less than two weeks ago, the deadliest school shooting in over a decade occurred at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas; bringing the ongoing, deeply partisan gun control debate in America to the forefront of the world’s attention in heartbreaking detail.
Since I moved to the U.S. a little under nine years ago, there have been over 250 instances of gun violence at schools, colleges and universities; most of which didn’t make the news. The ones given widespread coverage are like Uvalde, Texas, where nineteen students aged 8 to 11-years old and two teachers were gunned down in their classrooms; an eerie reminder of Sandy Hook in 2012 which should have been the “never again” watershed moment for gun reform.
As expected, shock and pain reverberated across the country when news broke that the nation’s children were yet again murdered in their place of learning; this time in a small Southwest Texas town. Schools are meant to be a place where education meets exploration; it’s where joy, friendships and future success are fueled by ham sandwiches, peach slices and recess games; all wrapped up in a sense of community and safety.
The frequency with which mass shootings and gun violence occurs in this country (and not just in schools) places the U.S. as a global outlier. Compared to peer countries (those with developed economies and populations over 10 million), America maintains the highest rate of firearm homicides. Despite leading in this kind of horror, the problem of gun violence is unlikely to be addressed at a federal level in any meaningful way.
Several misleading talking points are frequently used to stifle or distract discussions around enacting common sense gun control laws. While defending the right to gun ownership is perfectly reasonable because nobody is actually advocating for the second amendment to disappear; not resolving anything in the light of such devastation disconnects this nation from its humanity. America isn’t the superpower it thinks it is if it’s unwilling to prevent its children from dying in this way; firearms are currently the leading cause of death for U.S. children and teenagers with a staggering 65% of those gun deaths being homicide-related (the rest are suicide; which also urgently needs to be addressed).
The data doesn’t back up the belief, for example, that easier access to guns make people safer. There is a direct correlation between higher rates of gun-related homicides, suicides and accidental killings in states where gun laws are weaker.
The much touted “good guy with a gun” isn’t the self-defense answer to gun violence that the National Rifle Association (NRA) would like people to believe. Despite it clearly being an effective slogan that’s seamlessly integrated into the lexicon of anti-gun reform talking points, armed civilians very rarely effectively intervene during mass shootings. Studies have even shown that armed victims of an assault/crime can be up to four times more likely to be shot during an interaction with a perpetrator. Everyone who buys or owns a gun is a “good guy” until they decide to weaponize their hatred or anger. Human behaviour is flawed; gun safety laws shouldn’t be.
Additionally, placing the blame for mass shootings on access to illegal firearms is evasive and unsupported up by facts. Meticulous and consistent data collected over the past few decades clearly reveal that the vast majority of guns used in this type of violence were lawfully obtained.
Arguing that “guns don’t kill; people do”, does nothing to advance firearm safety laws (a convenient loop of causation to distract people into). Any tool that requires human manipulation to make it work is inherently unable to complete its intended function — that’s not up for debate. A pencil will not write until the thoughts and actions of its user take it from inanimate object to useful device. The primary function of a gun is to injure, maim or kill; those who choose to operate them to threaten, attack or murder other people are committing a horrifying crime; improved barriers that could potentially reduce the occurrences of this are quite literally life-saving.
Asserting that proposed gun control policies won’t prevent firearm-related violence in America utilizes the enormity of the issue to sustain indifference. Advocates are fully cognizant of the fact that those deliberately looking to cause terror and harm with a gun will find a way; what common sense reform aims to do is make it as hard as possible for this to happen. Potentially hindering gun violence, including mass shootings is not the pointless undertaking that some in society wish you’d accept. It’s time for thoughts and prayers to join forces with progress and action.
The general consensus among Americans is that some form of gun reform is needed. An overall majority, for example, approve of things like universal background checks; permits for concealed carry; red-flag laws and banning assault rifles and high-capacity magazines. The problem with this data — although accurate — is that politics, laws and policies on this issue comes down to state-by-state control. Republican-led constituencies overwhelmingly oppose gun control laws, so their representatives in Congress frequently vote them down. In the 50/50 split Senate, the Democrats would need at least 10 Republican senators voting with them to meet the 60 votes necessary to break the filibuster. A feat made even more unlikely by the NRA’s financial contributions to (mostly Republican) House and Senate members that effectively incentivizes them to protect gun lobby interests.
Update June 8th 2022: A recent poll of Republican voters found that 44% of them believe that the U.S. should just get used to living with mass shootings.
While it may seem futile; advocating for common-sense gun safety laws remains a pressing issue. Here are a number of organizations and initiatives to follow/support that will help you remain motivated, well-informed and working towards change:
- Sign this petition – End the NRA’s Tax Status
Do you have strong gun safety laws where you live? What are your thoughts about the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas?
NAMI Helpline – a free, nationwide U.S. resource that offers experienced peer-support guidance and advice
CheckPoint – global (by country) resources for mental health and trauma support