Another Op-Ed About Another Shooting: When Will It End?

Another day, another dozen people dead. Yesterday’s tragedy in Oregon marked the 294th mass shooting in 274 days in the United States. We’re numb. The nation is numb. “Somehow, this has become routine,” said President Obama. “The reporting is routine, my response here at this podium ends up being routine.” Surely the fact that mass shootings are now a mundane part of the news cycle is a sign of the end of days. How much worse can it really get?

There’s a familiar tack to these stories, from Columbine to Aurora to Sandy Hook to Charleston. The shooter is usually a young white male, antisocial, and generally friendless. A manifesto of sorts will surface online at some point. Some want fame; some kill in the name of an absurd cause, like Dylan Roof’s white supremacy and Elliott Rodger’s deep-seeded misogyny. In the case of Umpqua Community College shooter Chris Mercer, it seems to be a combination of racism and hatred of organized religion, with Mercer allegedly targeting Christian victims – a fact that will surely soon be exploited by the Christian right as proof of “prejudice.”

Using numbers from the CDC, CNN found that 316, 545 people died from gun violence in the United States between 2004-2013, as opposed to the 313 people that died from domestic terrorism in the same period of time. But how are these shootings not considered domestic terrorism? The definition of terrorism is “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.” Are these men not considered terrorists because they’re disturbed, because they seek notoriety? Or does our culture really need to examine its prejudices, to make the sad realization that we have more to fear from our neighbors than from some cartoonish Muslim stereotype? The second seems far more likely.

This is the 45th American school shooting in 2015. The more statistics we read, the more nauseated we feel. We are sad, we are frustrated, and we are tired. Those slain deserve far better from their country. A visibly upset President Obama was clear on his thoughts on gun control during his address to the nation. “Our thoughts and prayers are not enough. It does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted somewhere else in America—next week or a couple of months from now,” he said.

We of course agree. Can we follow in the footsteps of nations like England and Australia, who implemented gun control laws in the wake of horrific massacres? We would like to think so. We could even improve our stats without enacting extremely strict gun laws, such as putting an injunction on assault weapons, increasing the criteria for background checks, and elongating waiting periods. But this violence has gone on for so long that hope seems futile. The question “what will it take” is unanswerable, because we’ve been presented with the most horrifying options possible. When will this end?

Check out the website for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence to see what you can do to help. 

Image via NBC News

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