Gun Violence in the US: Another Day, Another Mass Shooting

By Cat Stewart

CW: gun violence

Late Wednesday night, a gunman opened fire at The Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California, killing 12 and wounding at least 22 more. Thousand Oaks is located 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles and is a popular bar for college students attending Pepperdine University, Moorpark College, and California Lutheran University. On Wednesday, the bar was filled with over 100 people celebrating “college night” and line dancing. As he attempted to enter the bar, the gunman shot the bouncer and then proceeded to open fire on the crowd inside. The shooter had purchased his handgun legally but used an extended magazine, which is illegal in the state of California, to fire off rounds more quickly.

Some of the victims of tonight’s mass shooting in Thousand Oaks are also survivors of last year’s Las Vegas massacre. Gun violence in our country is so frequent that people are becoming survivors of MULTIPLE mass shooting incidents. That is COMPLETELY unacceptable.

— Bawbby. (@toddysire_) November 8, 2018

Gun violence heavily impacts young people – both physically and mentally – threatening our sense of safety in schools, movie theaters, concerts, bars, and religious spaces. Personally, I find myself monitoring my surroundings now more than ever; I’m hyper-aware of the potential for a shooting to break out at any moment. Over the summer, I couldn’t focus on the pride I felt while attending my sister’s high school graduation because I was too busy being consumed by the fear of the ceremony being interrupted by a gunman. This is a perspective surfacing among young people especially because we have grown up with the rising threat of attacks in spaces that we believed to be – and have been told were – safe. Feeling inherently unsafe or on edge in a crowd or having to question whether or not a fire alarm going off is a ploy to entice students out of classrooms is now ingrained in the fight-or-flight processes of my generation.

In 2018 alone, more than 12,000 people have been killed by guns, a quarter of whom were under the age of 18. As a reaction to the increasing prevalence of mass shootings in the U.S., active shooter trainings have become commonplace in schools, businesses, and college residence halls. However, trainings like these have only shifted the responsibility of survival onto victims of shootings rather than actually addressing the root of the issue: lack of gun control and apathy from the top-down.

There have been numerous attempts to call for government action to end the senseless murders of thousands each year due to gun violence: from the filibuster and sit-in in Congress during the summer of 2016 to the March for Our Lives that brought over a million people to Washington, D.C. on March 24, 2018, and hosted sister marches around the country. Yet the American public continues to be outraged and scared by the massacres that occur across the country on a weekly – and sometimes daily – basis. Legislation has been introduced, communities have been organized, but still no federal action has been taken to end the violence. Thousands of parents have lost their children to gun violence, friends have watched their classmates die, and innumerable survivors of these attacks experience PTSD from the horror, yet the rate of mass shootings continues to rise.

It is incredibly important to recognize the role that the National Rifle Association (NRA) plays in this epidemic by acknowledging its impact on legislators: for starters, the NRA has prevented the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from researching the effects of gun violence on public health for over 20 years. The NRA also blocked the ban on assault weapons proposed back in 2013.

The NRA is entrenched and insidious in our government. It has been lobbying Congress for years and it’s no secret which representatives accept money from the NRA each election cycle. By pulling purse strings to target specific legislators, the NRA further pushes its agenda to loosen gun laws and regulations nationwide – as if U.S. gun laws aren’t already ridiculously loose. You can walk into a gun store (or until just earlier this year, a Walmart) or stroll through a gun show and purchase a weapon within minutes. Minutes. It only took a reporter in Philadelphia 17 minutes to buy an AR-15, the type of gun used in the majority of U.S. mass shootings. Yet, to many gun supporters, Congress members, and the Trump administration, there is nothing that could possibly be done to stop these mass shootings. After all, guns don’t kill people – people kill people, right?

However, gun advocates conveniently always disregard that guns are weapons explicitly made to kill, whether that be animals or people; assault weapons, in particular, were made to kill in large numbers. Countless arguments have been made about the irrationality of using the 2nd Amendment as an excuse to own and operate fully automatic weapons. For example, this article explains what the “well-regulated militia” clause really means.

With the constant news about shootings across the country, it is easy to forget that people lose their lives to guns everyday in the United States outside of mass shootings. People of color and white women are at much higher risk of being victims of gun violence, often as a result of interpersonal violence. It isn’t just high school and college students that are at risk of being killed by gunfire, but children that get their hands on an improperly secured firearm, families that are murdered by husbands and fathers, and anyone who may interact with or be targeted by misogynist, racist, antiBlackanti-queer, anti-Semitic, and otherwise bigoted and dangerous gun carriers who are empowered by our pro-gun culture that perpetuates this continuous violence.

There isn’t one magic solution that will suddenly solve all of our gun-related problems; however, action needs to be taken in order to end this steadily increasing violence. This post is not a unique call to action or an innovative proposal that no one has thought of before: this is continued outrage, exhaustion, and pessimistic anger at those in charge who refuse to entertain the idea of saving lives.

To learn more and take action to end gun violence:

Use this Gun Law Navigator to find out what the gun laws are in your state
Check to see if March For Our Lives will be coming to your city on their next tour
Use this website to find out how to contact your congresspeople and hold them accountable for their lack of movement on gun reform

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