There’s been 173 mass shootings in the past 164 days.
Before we begin, let’s just reflect on the sentence above, and truly take in what it means. In the past 164 days there has been 173 reported mass shooting in the United States. 173 mass shootings in 164 days. In just the last five months alone, there has been more mass shootings than the number of days past. Just dwell on that. The severity. The ridiculousness. The reality.
Mass shootings in America are no longer met with surprise, certainly not whenever I see them reported on the news here in Australia. Perhaps the death toll comes at a shock, certainly the latest to take place in Orlando, Florida did, but the very occurrence of said event doesn’t. Instead it’s met with the (now same) reaction of, “oh look, it’s happened again”, but this isn’t what I wanted to talk about today. It’s not our reaction to the event of a mass shooting, but instead the reaction once the dust settles and we begin to ask questions about the “why”.
Keeping in mind the news is extremely specific in which events it chooses to publicise and which details it chooses to focus attention on, I shall look at some of the recent cases for the purposes of this discussion, but in no means is it comprehensive.
If we look at just some recent examples, the most recent of which being the mass murder in Orlando, Florida earlier this week (where the death toll of at least 50 has now made it the worst gun-related massacre in recent times), the San Bernardino massacre in 2015 and the shooting at Colorado Springs in the same year, what is common within each? In response to each, the community is quick to consider it a mental health issue, quick to downplay religious involvement, and quick to suggest there isn’t a gun problem. As far as I’m concerned, there are legitimate concerns with all three statements.
“This isn’t a gun issue, it’s a mental health issue.” While the former section of the statement is offensively false, let’s begin with the latter. While true, where you wouldn’t suspect that someone of sound mental health could be responsible for the senseless murder of innocent individuals, let alone another person in general, it’s a gross singular conclusion to come to as to why these mass shootings are taking place in America, and with such frequency. Too often we hear these comments coming from guns advocates as a way to shift blame and attention from the very objects that result in these senseless killings, and while there’s truth in their statements, it’s the irresponsibility to consider multiple factors in-light of tragedies like this that sees America sitting in the position it currently is.
What I mean is, to simply put down the occurrence of these mass murders to mental health is to apportion blame to, quite frankly, and quite unfortunately, an unresolvable problem. At least in the near future. When it comes to our understanding of mental health, we have a long way to go. When it comes to our acceptance and treating of mental health in society, we have a long way to go. What I’m suggesting is that to simply say that we need to “fix how we deal with mental health” as if it is the sole reason why someone would take a firearm and use it to kill innocent lives, is sadly too large a problem, and sadly, not one which can resolve issues like this from occurring.
So what’s next? “This isn’t a gun issue …”
Never has a statement, certainly in the context of mass shootings in America, been so inappropriately incorrect and inexcusably offensive. To suggest that firearms, the very items, no, weapons, which are being used (on average, daily) to conduct these mass shootings (highlight: shootings) could not be further from the truth. As I will explain below, I do not understand the necessity for a weapon, but I have never and will never accept this seemingly wide-spread view that an American should have the right to own a weapon, nor that said weapons are not responsible for this devastation.
The Second Amendment states in relation to the right to own a firearm, “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Militia, meaning a military force that is raised from the civil population to supplement a regular army in an emergency.
For the second time in this article, let’s take that part in. What the paragraph above is telling us, is that in the state of an emergency, every citizen in America has the right to own a firearm, should they need to come together to create a military force to keep their country free. As noble as its original intentions might have been, and perhaps excuse me while I be a little blunt here, but never have I read such a more absurd collection of words strung into a sentence of utter and irrelevant bullshit.
The entire notion that every American requires a gun, in the event the government somehow becomes equivalent to a dictatorship where the people are utterly oppressed, that they can somehow overthrow said government and regain peace, is perhaps the most laughable concept I’ve ever heard. When society can’t get its collective shit together to tackle even the simplest of issues, this idea that there’ll be some coming together of the minds to defeat a corrupt government is comical. Well-regulated militia? It would be akin to a scene from Mad Max if anything. Regardless, the point I’m trying to make is, the very reason why Americans have the ‘right’ to own guns is absurd, let alone the very fact that Americans stand by this idea that they should, just because.
This however is the mere tip of the iceberg, because it is this view that guns are a ‘right’ that poses the biggest problem to the issue of mass shooting in America. Putting aside hunters for the purpose of this article (for the record, hunting, which I don’t agree with as a recreational activity), there is no logical reason for any regular citizen to own a firearm, not for protection, not for any reason. The idea that you require a gun in-case someone comes into your property who has a gun, to protect yourself, is like a circle of nonsense that continues upon itself. To remove the accessibility of weapons in the first place would ultimately prevent the need to own said weapon as a means of protection. It is here that I reference the decision by Australian Prime Minister John Howard, where he initiated a governmental buy-back of all firearms from the Australian public in the 1990s after the Port Arthur massacre, that there has been no mass shooting in the country since. Just something to dwell on.
In the situation above I refer mostly to pistols, let alone semi-automatic weapons which have, and I cannot stand by this enough, absolutely no relevance in being owned by the general public, whatsoever. The mere fact a fool was able to purchase a weapon capable of killing 50 people in Orlando, should beggar belief and utter disgust in anyone who comes across the news of the mass shooting.
So the excuse of blaming the issue of mass shootings on mental health and suggesting that guns aren’t the problem are mentioned above, however there is one last piece of the puzzle, one last problem that does not get discussed well enough, and it’s perhaps the most controversial of them all.
Now before we continue we need to stop treating religion as a topic that is free from criticism and free from deconstruction. Religion is archaic, and mass shootings like Orlando and Colorado Springs are examples of this.
Too often when a mass shooting is conducted by a follower of Islam, we are quick to announce that the actions of once are not representative of many. Alternatively, when a mass shooting is conducted by a follower of Christianity, we are quick to announce that the actions are due to mental health issues, but the fact is, the actions from both are due to underlying teachings from what are quite frankly, outdated and redundant beliefs. It’s all good and well to say that a Christian who shoots an abortion clinic is an extremist, or a Muslim who shoots a gay bar is a terrorist, but there’s no denying, their abhorrent behaviour extends from teachings of their religion. It mightn’t be shared by all followers of the religion, but it stems from the same source, and we can’t ignore that this is the case.
We shouldn’t tip-toe around picking apart Islam for its poor teachings for the fear of backlash, in the same way that we shouldn’t tip-toe around picking apart Christianity for its poor teachings simply because it’s a major religion in Western societies. The fact we place these historic (and out-dated) belief structures on pedestals to avoid ridicule is no different to suggesting guns aren’t the problem. The very real fact is that they both contribute towards this problem, and we need to have a dialogue that discusses that and asks how we can truly go about turning those kind of views around – whether it be how we view abortion, homosexuality or just non-believers in general.
So what’s the solution to finally putting an end to these mass murders? Well, it’s a difficult one to answer, but we need to stop assuming mental health is the sole contributing factor, stop assuming that guns aren’t the problem, and stop thinking that religion isn’t playing a role. Unless we do this, tomorrow there’ll be another mass shooting, and soon enough, someone will break the Orlando record, because at this stage they’ve become just that, numbers.