What time is the right time to talk about gun control?

Nov 12th, 2017 | By | Category: 2017-2018, Opinions

By Caitlin Forbes
Managing Editor

On Oct. 1, at least 59 people were killed and 527 people were injured. Putting into perspective, that is 48 more people than the class of 2020. By now, I’m sure we all know the details: 64-year old Stephen Paddock unleashing gunfire onto a crowd of 22,000 from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas.

In 15 minutes of continuous gunfire, a total of 42 guns in the shooter’s possession and thousands of rounds of ammunition, people’s lives changed and ended. We live in a nation where someone can obtain guns numbering in the doubled digits. I don’t care if you are a hunter, a police officer, or a collector, but no one should ever have that amount of weaponry.

This act of domestic terrorism is disgusting, devastating, horrific, but not surprising. When I found out what was happening the night of the shooting, my stomach dropped, and my immediate thought was “not again.” Not again. So many lives are lost to mass shootings, let alone gun violence as a whole.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said, “There’s a time and place for a political debate, but now is the time to unite as a country.” To that I say bullshit. It is never the right time to talk about gun control. Why? Because every time it gets brought up (which has been quite frequently in the last couple of years) it’s after a mass shooting. It is not insensitive to talk about the future, protecting future lives and citizens, in the wake of a tragedy. We move on, but we don’t forget those who were lost. Claiming you can’t politicize victims of mass shootings for gun control is as oxymoronic as saying you can’t lobby for increased response money for hurricane protection after a massive hurricane. You politicize it because it is relevant, not because it is politically expedient.

This topic always gets covered up with “mental health screenings,” the Second Amendment and the argument that guns don’t kill people-people kill people. Yes people deserve to have rights, but should our rights really include the ability to have a personal arsenal? The system we have put in place obviously does not work. People can acquire firearms and kill massive amounts of other people. This happened. Paddock must have gone through multiple screenings to just get the amount of guns that he has.

Newsflash: Republicans, Democrats and Moderates can all be killed by guns. This is a conversation that needs to happen now. Today. Yesterday. After Columbine, after Sandy Hook, after Virginia Tech, after Fort Hood, after Manchester, after Tucson, after Aurora, after Charleston, after Roseburg, after San Bernardino, after Colorado Springs, after Hesston, after Orlando and now after Las Vegas. We cannot hide within our tragedy.

President Trump Tweeted, “My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!” This brush-off tweet is the virtual equivalent to shrugging shoulders. Yes, those people are dead and they can’t be brought back to life by a magical statement, but don’t act like this is some huge unavoidable conflict. And this doesn’t even compare to the dialogue surrounding the privilege this individual is getting as a white male. If this was a person of color, you can bet that news outlets and the FBI wouldn’t have immediately brushed away the idea of terrorism. The news wouldn’t be interviewing family members to see “where it went wrong”, there would be no other storyline.

In the last 24 hours social media has been flooded with fear and anxiety. The amount of safe public spaces seem to be dwindling. Movie theatres, concerts, schools, clubs — we should not be in fear of dying because we wanted to have fun. I don’t want to ever have to say to myself, “Do I want to live, or do I want to live my life?” After the 2012 movie theatre shooting in Florida, I couldn’t help being fearful about going to the movies. To this day I will get pangs of anxiety when someone goes to the bathroom during a movie, fearful that at any moment my life will end because I left my house. The answer is not to cave into the fear- adding screenings at Disneyland, making students walk through metal detectors. These should be temporary implements.

We need to talk about this, and something needs to change. For those who still aren’t convinced, answer me this: why have the numbers of mass shootings increased? Why has the shock value decreased when events like this happen? Why do we live in fear?

I have lived through four record-breaking mass shootings in my life. And I am sick of it.

 

caforbes@willamette.edu

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