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Sunday, June 23, 2024
The Observer

United States shootings: who cares?

Yet another mass shooting has rocked the United States. Or should I say “rocked” — was anyone really surprised when reports of multiple people killed by a lone gunman started filing in? And when multiple people turned into 26, and the gunman into ex-military with a shady history, and the gun into an AR-15 — the same gun used in the Las Vegas concert shooting, the Orlando nightclub shooting, the San Bernardino Christmas party shooting, the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting and the Colorado movie theatre shooting — when we heard the same story for the fifth time this year alone, can anyone honestly say they were “rocked?”

These massacres are commonplace. Sandy Hook caught our attention because most of the dead were children. The media capitalized on Orlando because there was time for the victims to send a last text message, and those were heartbreaking. But in general, gun violence does not shock the American public.

Nothing proves this point like the politics of gun violence. If Americans were really shaken by these tragedies, we would demand change on both sides of the aisle. Issues that we care about show up in marches, petitions, rallies — think about the anger that exists in the pro-choice and pro-life debate. That anger means something. The Women’s March last January showed Americans care about women’s rights; the March for Science revealed how climate change exists in our public consciousness; the Black Lives Matter movement evidenced our interest in racial justice. The magnitude of these movements, each of which accrued an equally large counter-movement, underline just how invested Americans are in these particular issues. Our loudness reveals our passion.

But where are the movements about gun violence?

We don’t have them. We haven’t even named the sides; I can’t use words like “pro-control” or “pro-ownership” like I can pro-choice and pro-life. There has not been legislative changes to federal law on guns since 2005; with no new developments except an increased body count, the gun debate has gotten stale. Liberals demand gun restrictions and conservatives demand the opposite, and no action takes place either way. Meanwhile, the public is content to offer our collective thoughts and prayers, watch Congress peter out some comments on mental illness and maybe buy a gun for ourselves, just in case the next mass shooting occurs at a prominent Catholic university — we all have a Clint Eastwood fantasy we’d love to play out, right?

If you lit a candle at the Grotto for the victims of this massacre, congratulations. That candle will do absolutely nothing to help solve this problem and prevent further death, but lighting it probably made you feel better. If you shared a news article on Facebook, great work — you’ve trivialized the deaths of over two dozen people by placing them side by side with pictures of someone’s cat; but hey, awareness is awareness. Maybe you got brave and shared an opinion article about how gun control will not stop mass shootings, or an infographic about how it will — well done. The people who already agree with you will now agree more, and the people who don’t will scroll through to look at the cat, but at least you have stated an opinion. Baby steps, right?

We cannot be content with this.

The 21st century has been racked by gun-related massacres. I counted 37 mass shootings since 2000 in my search, but feel free to look yourself. It doesn’t matter which side of the debate you are on, whether you want more guns or less guns, background checks or mental illness programs, whatever — decide what you want and care about it. Get loud. Get passionate. Form a movement, name a side, start a rally. Make this a national issue. And do it quickly — the bodies are piling up fast.


The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.