According to the website shootingtracker.com, 298 mass shootings had taken place in America by early October this year, the equivalent of one every 25 hours.
A “mass shooting” is generally defined as an incident in which at least four people are injured by a gunman. The fact that this qualification involves such a high number is a big red flag. But what do we do about such senseless acts of violence?
I don’t have the answer. The issue is far too complex, and too many variables need to be taken into consideration. However, it is increasingly apparent that something has to be done.
On Oct. 1, a 26-year-old student opened fire at his school, Umpqua Community College in Oregon, killing nine people and injuring nine others before taking his own life.
Umpqua could be Forest Park. Those students showed up for school just as we do every day. Some were underprepared for tests. Some paid too much for disappointing food in the cafeteria. Someone was suffering from heartbreak. Someone was missing his children. Someone was waiting for a call on whether she got the job.
They are us, and a fellow student senselessly attacked them.
School shootings aren’t new or shocking any more. What they are is depressing. How can our reactions not become routine with something that happens so often?
There is little difference between Umpqua and Virginia Tech, where a gunman took 32 lives. Eight years have passed with no significant changes in public policy.
Change is possible, though. In 1996, a massacre in Port Arthur, Australia, resulted in 35 fatalities and 26 injuries, one of the deadliest shootings in history. The country responded by passing rigid gun laws, and it has not experienced a mass shooting since, according to Slate.
It’s rather horrifying that in America, civilians possess about 270 million firearms, including 897,000 carried by police, according to dosomething.org. The site asserts that about 20 percent of gun owners own 65 percent of the guns.
My next point is complicated but telling, so stay with me.
If 65 percent of 270 million firearms are owned by 20 percent of gun owners, that 20 percent owns 175.5 million guns.
According to NBC News, one-third of Americans own guns. Based on a population of 318.9 million Americans as of 2014, that translates to 106.3 million Americans who own guns, and that would mean 21.3 million people own 175.5 million guns, or about eight guns per person.
Here’s my question: Who in the world needs eight guns?
Arguably, gun control may not change anything. Guns are a hot commodity on the street and are sold illegally every day. I can’t imagine that someone willing to kill people would have an issue with going that route, but maybe that’s where their morals draw the line. Who knows?
Mental health is a big part of this debate. With the multitude of manifestos from perpetrators of shootings, it’s obvious that many were far from mentally healthy. But most owned guns legally. According to the New York Times, in the 14 most recent mass shootings that gained national attention, all of the guns were legally obtained.
A popular slogan suggests that “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” My response is that if someone is going to kill someone, let’s not give them a gun.
Again, I don’t know how we get to that stage. I personally don’t believe in guns. I understand people owning shotguns for hunting or maybe small handguns for protection, but as a self-acknowledged klutz, I’d probably end up shooting myself while trying to shoot an intruder.
While solutions are elusive, something urgently needs to be done, and the last ones with answers are politicians. Please do research for yourself and make up your own mind. This isn’t a black-and-white issue. Conservatives aren’t completely right or wrong. Neither are liberals.
But something has to be done. Our school could be next.