Nine killed in a church. Twenty-six in an elementary school. Forty-nine at a nightclub. Twelve more in a movie theater. And now 58 more at a music festival in Las Vegas. These are just a few of the shootings that occur every day in the U.S. The death tolls change. The locations change. The victim’s change. The shooters change. The one thing that does not is what seems to come after these shootings.
How can this keep happening in the most advanced nation on earth? Each year more than 30,000 American lives are lost due to gun violence, a number far above those of other developed (and developing) nations. This is a national crisis, and under the current administration and Republican-controlled Congress, it seems like it will only continue to get worse.
What happens after these mass shootings is a cycle. Our Congress, puppets of the National Rifle Association (NRA), will come out and send their “thoughts and prayers” to victims and their families and say that now is not the time to talk about gun control. After a couple weeks, once the media has found a new issue to dwell upon, the topic is brushed under the rug and forgotten and we are back to square one.
To put the Las Vegas shooting into perspective, one of the deadliest days in the U.S. military’s modern history was a 10-day period in the battle of Fallujah. Fifty-four soldiers were killed and 425 were shot. In a span of eight minutes, we saw death and injury tolls even higher than those in Las Vegas, with 59 killed and 527 injured. The Las Vegas shooter had an arsenal of weapons, most of which were assault rifles. This begs the question of why weapons like these are even available for the public. Contrary to pro-gun advocates claim their assault weapons are for self-defense or hunting, they have one purpose and one purpose only: to kill.
Just a few decades ago, the NRA was known for its promotion of gun safety and advocated gun ownership for hunting and home protection. Today, it has become far more recognizable as one of the strongest political forces in the United States government that aggressively (and unreasonably) protects the Second Amendment right to bear arms. Its efforts to prevent reasonable gun control legislation have resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent Americans. The NRA is directly responsible for Congress striking down common-sense gun legislation that the vast majority of the United States population supports, and they do this by bullying legislators into voting against legislation deemed anti-gun. The NRA responds to candidates who oppose its stranglehold on gun legislation by funding pro-gun rights candidates in elections and putting out negative ads labeling them as unresponsive to their constituents.
Each year nearly 2 million people are denied guns due to a background check that deems them unsafe gun owners. These two million people, thanks to a loophole in our legislation, then go to a gun show and purchase whatever they want, with no background check required. In the most powerful nation on earth it should not be this easy to bypass the law.
A common argument made by opponents of gun reform is to point out cities like New York and Chicago with high rates of gun violence, but strict gun control laws. The problem with this argument is that gun control is only effective on the national scale. In some parts of America, it is harder to purchase cough syrup than it is to get a weapon. Guns can still be purchased from states with less strict laws like Georgia or Texas, once again defeating the purpose of gun control. After a mass shooting in Port Arthur, Australia in 1996, the Australian government passed legislation banning semi-automatic and automatic assault rifles and strengthening laws regarding how to obtain a firearm. The policies drastically reduced the number of mass shootings in the country to almost zero, something the U.S. should take note of.
Our poorly written laws extend to guns obtained legally as well. Many states do not require gun owners to conceal and properly lock away weapons in their homes, contributing to the U.S.’s high rate of accidental gun deaths. In virtually every other industry we hold goods to the highest standards but why not the same for guns? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1,300 children are killed and 5,800 injured from accidental gunshot wounds. Cars must meet safety and emissions requirements. Food must be sanitary and safe to eat. The ongoing cycle of gun violence will not end until the gun industry gets on board with making basic changes. If a child cannot open a bottle of Aspirin they should not be able to pull a trigger.
It is clear that gun reform will not happen under our current Congress, even if 94 percent of Americans support gun legislation that requires background checks for all firearm purchases, according to a poll by Quinnipiac University. Our legislators do not represent the will of the people but rather the will of the special-interest groups who pay to get them reelected, and with the NRA’s chokehold on Congress, who can blame them.
The gun lobby has woven its way so deeply into our political system that many politicians, on the right and left, cannot even get into office without its approval, a threat to democracy. The voice of the American people, at least on issues of gun reform, no longer matters.
It can no longer be acceptable that our Congress cares more about lining their pockets, than they do about their constituents. Human lives have been lost and more will be if our legislators do not get their priorities straight.