In my seventh grade expository writing class, we spent two months composing narratives about “an event that changed your life.” At the end of the class, the teacher gave us printed anthologies of our work.
Flipping through the book excitedly, I read each story from front to back. One, however, stuck out to me.
The story’s writer shows up to a friend’s house for a playdate. They are in the backyard, immersed in a game.
Suddenly, they hear a loud bang from the house. The friend tells the writer to run, and they start sprinting. There’s another bang, and then his friend is not next to him anymore. The writer looks behind him and sees his friend’s father, holding a gun, pointed directly at him. He’s stuck in fear, unable to move, but then the father puts the gun down and the writer bolts, running as fast as he can back to his own house.
The story ended there, but its impact on a young seventh grader did not.
When Sandy Hook happened, I remembered that essay. When Virginia Tech, Aurora, Orlando, and San Bernardino happened, I remembered that essay. When my high school principal informed us that my high school counselor was shot by her husband, I remembered that essay.
This morning, when I woke up to text messages from all over the world asking me about Las Vegas, my first thought was of that essay, of my fellow classmate, who witnessed a shooting right in front of his very eyes.
Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, and Aurora were framed by the media as incidents caused by men with unfortunate mental illnesses. We only need mental health reform, not gun control legislation, the politicians said. Orlando? San Bernardino? Cases of ISIS terrorism. We need to ban Muslims and restrict immigration, not control gun sales, the politicians said.
Last Monday, Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old white man with no significant criminal or mental health records, and no confirmed affiliation to a terrorist organization, has committed the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. The current media has a way of crafting stories that valorize shooters, especially those who are white. How will the media shape it this time, so politicians can, once again, distract from the core issue?
CNN reports that police at the Las Vegas shooting scene “[didn’t] know how it could have been prevented.” However, guns are the reason we have mass shootings. In the end, the shooter’s motive, mental state, and background don’t matter. Evil people will inevitably exist, but ultimately, guns are the tools that enable these evil people to commit these massacres. This shooting – and many, many others in the United States – could have been prevented with more comprehensive gun control legislation.
Gun legislation has succeeded in Australia, Japan, South Korea, and Finland. Among these countries, Australia used to have a gun culture most similar to that of the United States. Twenty years ago, after a tragic gun massacre, Australia passed strict gun control laws that prohibited the sale and use of certain types of firearms. Since then, Australia has had zero mass shootings.
Notably, many Australian politicians who enacted this law lost their positions in reelection due to unsatisfied constituents. However, it took only one mass shooting for them to realize that the Australian people needed to be protected. How many more senseless massacres have to happen until American politicians are able to put the welfare of the American people over theirs prospects for reelection?
Despite the evidence supporting gun control reform, gun lobbies such as the NRA continuously mislead the American public. Supporters of the Second Amendment typically fall back on what the NRA tells them: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
However, Caleb Keeter, a lead guitarist performing in the ill-fated Las Vegas country concert, was a lifelong supporter of the Second Amendment until he realized that “the good guys,” like himself, couldn’t pull out the guns in fear that police would think that they were shooters themselves.
If my seventh-grade classmate had a gun with him, would he have had enough time to shoot the father first? Would the father see the gun and stop shooting? Would the friend even want him to shoot his father? In the chaos and unpredictability of shootings, having a gun makes you a “bad guy” as well.
When our founding fathers wrote the Second Amendment, they didn’t know we would make machine guns. They didn’t know we would have arms with the capability to shoot more than 500 people in fifteen minutes.
A few days after Las Vegas, the NRA stated that they would consider tougher control of the sale of bump stocks, but that’s not enough. Ultimately, politicians and pro-gun constituents refuse to recognize firearms themselves as the root of the problem.
Is politics worth the lives of so many innocent people? Our representatives need to let go of ideological differences and actually enact legislation. What happened in Las Vegas was incredibly senseless and devastating; the anger, sadness, and frustration we feel regarding this tragedy should not be forgotten in the coming weeks.
We must mourn the loss of innocent lives and recognize the necessity of stricter gun regulation to prevent future massacres.