June 3, 2023

Confronting gun violence in the U.S.: Well-intentioned thoughts and prayers need real action

Protestors call for an end to gun violence in the U.S. Photo by Chip Vincent on Unsplash

There are things for which Americans cannot be proud. Just 10 days after an 18-year-old killed 10 people in Buffalo, New York only because they were Black, another horrific mass shooting shook the country.

In Uvalde, a predominantly Hispanic town in Texas, another 18-year-old killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school. [According to the non-profit Gun Violence Archive, a mass shooting is a single incident in which four or more people, not including the shooter, are either shot or killed.]

The Uvalde mass shooter legally obtained an AR-15, a military-style weapon, designed to cause the most damage in the shortest time.

Reaction in various societal spheres followed a pattern that has become routine:

-Tele-journalists with grave, emphatic voices and sad expressions reported the incident.

-Most Americans were outraged.

-National and local newspapers, radio, social media and websites tirelessly gave details of the massacre.

-Republicans and right-wing media pointed to a long list of dubious possible causes for the mass shooting: mental health, a broken family, video games, violent movies, teachers not carrying guns for self-defense, too many doors, and cannabis – anything but the military-style weapon used during the attack and the ease with which such weapons can be purchased in the U.S.

Whether or not any of the aforementioned factors contributed to the mental deterioration of the attacker, the American right continues to dismiss as a potential cause the common denominator of all mass shootings: guns.

The truth is that Republican lawmakers avoid any form of gun legislation because supporting even the most common-sense of reforms, which are supported by the majority of Americans, could be detrimental to their political careers. Republicans cannot afford to lose the support of the all-powerful National Rifle Association, with its 5 million members, most of voting age, and $250 million budget, from which the NRA’s “A-rated” political candidates enjoy significant campaign contributions.

Along with evading the obvious commonality of all gun-violence, the American right recites a now well-known hollow mantra similar to this:

“We are deeply saddened by the tragic events that occurred in Texas this week. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and community devastated by this vile act.”

This, in fact, was the statement released by Daniel Defense, manufacturer of the AR-15, a type of semi-automatic rifle, which was used in Uvalde, as well as in the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting, when one man used a battery of powerful weapons to kill 60 people, injuring hundreds more.

Just 10 days before the Uvalde massacre, Daniel Defense, notorious for its aggressive marketing campaigns, released an ad that displayed a child playing with an AR-15, with the message, “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

America needs to address its gun problem for good.

The U.S. ranks first globally in firearms per capita, with 70 million more guns than people. The U.S. also has the highest homicide-by-firearm rate among the world’s most-developed nations. Purchasing a gun in the U.S. is too easy.

Limiting access to military-type guns could reduce the severity of America’s ever-impending avalanche of mass shootings, regardless of any potential shooter’s mental well-being. Why should be a military-style weapon be available to civilians in the first place?

Protestors called for increased gun safety at the March For Our Lives demonstration in Washington, D.C. in 2018. Photo by Tim Mudd on Unsplash

Gun regulation prevents mass shootings. The 1996 mass shootings in Scotland (18 deaths) and Australia (35 deaths) prompted the implementation of strict gun laws, which have proven to dramatically reduce mass killings.

Moreover, Japan, with about one-third of the U.S. population, registers approximately 10 gun-caused deaths per year. There, a license to carry guns is almost impossible to obtain; it involves rigorous steps such as psychological evaluations, training, justification for acquiring the weapon, etc.

The thoughts and prayers of Republicans unwilling to act on gun safety in the U.S. has done little to honor the pain and trauma of massacre survivors, parents and neighbors in Uvalde, and myriad mass shootings elsewhere.

Since the Uvalde massacre, the U.S. has endured another 34 mass shootings. Up-to-date statistics are available on gunviolencearchive.com

America needs to address its gun problem for good.

History has witnessed that when America really aims at a goal, it achieves it infallibly. In 1969, just seven years after President John F. Kennedy announced his “we choose to go the moon” goal, Americans accomplished the unimaginable feat.

Only a genuine resolve to stop mass shootings by implementing gun regulation and complementary measures, such as psychological support, will be effective.

Well-intentioned thoughts and prayers need real action.

Jesus Zaldivar

Jesus Zaldivar, contributor to The Commuter, is a Media Production student at NCC. Previously, he conducted biomedical / environmental research in South America, Europe and six states in the U.S. (Contact: jesus.zaldivar@student.northampton.edu)

View all posts by Jesus Zaldivar →
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