The Common Thread in Mass Shootings Isn't Mental Health or Security - It's Guns
In the wake of tragedies like the Las Vegas shooting, people usually end up asking one question – why? This time, the answer is unclear. Officials and investigators are scrambling to discover the motive behind the heinous mass shooting that killed 58 and wounded more than 500 people. As time draws on, we are left with more and more questions about how this massacre was able to be carried out completely undetected by security personnel in the days leading up to Sunday night’s massacre. However, rather than blaming mental health, hotel security, or why no one close to the shooter was able to foresee the events transpiring, perhaps we should be discussing something different: why is no one talking about the role guns play in all mass shootings?
After Columbine, they blamed school security. After Sandy Hook, they blamed mental health. After Pulse, we simply grieved. With every new mass shooting (there have been 273 just this year), the outcome becomes bleaker. For many, it becomes impossible to imagine a country with solid gun control. It’s a reality that America has never known.
Every mass shooting is different, and the big “why” always varies – family disagreements, money problems, hatred, racism, mental instability. We’ve come to accept these reasons as the motive behind mass shootings. The real common thread, however, is simple. The one thing that connects all mass shootings in the US, one way or another, is that the shooter had access to a firearm. Legally or illegally, guns are everywhere in the United States. According to the Congressional Research Service, there are roughly twice as many guns per capita in the United States as there were in 1968: more than 357 million guns in all. That’s 40 million more guns than people in the country – and that’s just counting guns sold legally.
America is fueled by gun culture. Gun references are in our music, our neighborhood shopping plazas, and in the very foundations of our nation’s laws. Did the “right to bear arms” really mean access to a full artillery of assault weapons, many semi-automatic and able to made automatic? The gun problem in America is tragic, staggering, and in many ways…inevitable.
Rather than focusing on the motive behind mass shootings, we need to start thinking about access. The Las Vegas shooter purchased his weaponry from a “Guns and Guitars” store in Mesquite TX, right next to a Sears and a Thai food buffet. 23 weapons were found in the hotel room and 19 were found in his home. In order to change how our country uses guns, we need to change how we think about them as well. It’s a complex issue with no quick-fix. The GOP is planning to strip access to mental health care, which will likely lead to a rise in violent crimes. The one thing we can do is fight for better mental health care, much stronger background checks, and policies that limit the kinds of weapons being sold and who can purchase them. Sounds like common sense, right?
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