By Emily Wunderlich
Columbine: 13 people dead. Virginia Tech: 32 people dead. Aurora: 12 people dead. Sandy Hook: 28 people dead. San Bernardino: 14 people dead. Pulse nightclub: 49 people dead. This was the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history— until Sunday.
Late Sunday, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock unleashed a hail of gunfire onto the Las Vegas Strip during a country music festival, killing at least 59 and wounding 527 more, CNN reports.
According to the news outlet, Paddock opened fire from the 32nd-floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel before turning the gun on himself. The motive of attack remains to be seen.
President Donald Trump addressed the tragedy in a brief but solemn statement Oct. 2, calling it an “act of pure evil.” He also ordered all flags to be lowered to half-mast.
“Hundreds of our fellow citizens are now mourning the sudden loss of a loved one – a parent, a child, a brother or sister,” he said. “We cannot fathom their pain, we cannot imagine their loss.”
“Our unity cannot be shattered by evil, our bonds cannot be broken by violence, and though we feel such great anger at the senseless murder of our fellow citizens, it is our love that defines us today – and always will, forever.”
Trump will visit Las Vegas Wednesday to meet with law enforcement, first responders and families of the victims.
While many Americans have drawn on scripture to find solace, it is going to take a lot more than prayers and condolences to mend the scars Paddock and all other mass shooters left on this country.
It is time to stop blaming mental health, terroristic agendas and criminal backgrounds on gun violence. While all of these factors play a significant role, the common denominator is clear: the gun.
Make no mistake: the government can’t (and won’t) seize your weapons. Your right to bear arms is protected under the Second Amendment. But nowhere in the Constitution does it state that you are entitled to military-grade assault rifles.
The Constitution was drafted during a period in which people relied on guns to go about their daily lives, and they were far less capable than those available today. Such is not the case anymore.
Nowadays guns serve two purposes in civilian life: hunting and self-defense – neither of which requires a semi-automatic weapon. Leave the AR-15s to the trained professionals.
With the virtually unlimited availability of assault weapons, police and law enforcement officers are more at risk than ever before – so much so that metropolitan cities fear their officers being outgunned by criminals.x
Of course, gun violence isn’t a single faceted issue; that’s what background checks are for. And by the looks of it, ours need to be reevaluated.
Background checks and identification are not required to purchase firearms in most states, including private sales at gun shows.
By introducing more comprehensive background checks, a national gun registry and a 28-day waiting period to purchase a gun, Australia was able to drastically reduce its number of mass shootings in just a matter of months.
In fact, 18 years before the legislation was reformed, there were 13 mass shootings throughout the country. 20 years later, not a single one.
While critics could argue that gun violence was already on the decline before the Australian government instituted these measures, there is no denying that the decline accelerated from 33 percent from 1986 to 1996, to 60 percent from 1996 to 2006.
If the number of mass shootings isn’t enough, consider this morbid statistic: an average of 27 people in the United States are killed by gun violence every day, according to The New York Times.
Perhaps this society’s sick obsession with guns is doing it more harm than good.
The need for reform resonates louder than the cries of any self-proclaimed law-abiding gun owner.
If you think making it harder to acquire a gun and being required to license is a “punishment,” I highly suggest avoiding your local county jail, where you’ll see real punishment in action.
The right to bear arms should not be measured against the value of human life. How many more killings will it take for America to break its silence and take preventative measures to protect its citizens?
If you truly believe in “putting America first,” the best way to do that is by starting domestically.
Header photo courtesy of Pixabay.
A previous version of this article noted an AR-15 as an automatic weapon. While recent reporting has uncovered that Stephen Paddock modified an AR-15 to be an automatic weapon, the rifle is categorized as a magazine-fed, gas-operated semi-automatic rifle.