I don’t want to write this article again. I don’t want to spend another few thousand words pleading for common sense, all but begging for a teaspoon of logic and reason in the face of overwhelming tragedy, in the shadow of the 273rd mass shooting in the U.S. this year.
So I’m not going to.
What follows is an article I wrote in June of 2016, following the Pulse night club massacre, which, until yesterday, held the title for deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. I have amended the introductory paragraph to accurately reflect the details of the latest mass shooting in Las Vegas, and the subsequent paragraphs are unchanged. Nothing needs to be altered because it’s the same old predictable refrain. Another mass shooting is met with multitudinous prayers and no action.
One of The deadliest mass shooting s in modern U.S. history happened on early Sunday morning at the LGBT night club, Pulse in Orlando, Florida Sunday evening at a country music festival in Las Vegas. 29 year old Florida resident Omar Mateen entered the club around 2am brandishing a Sig Sauer, AR-15 style rifle and a 9mm semiautomatic Glock 17 pistol. 65-year-old Nevada resident Stephen Paddock opened fire from a 32nd floor window of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino using as many as 19 different semi-automatic and possibly automatic rifles. He killed 49 at least 58 people and injured 53 over 500 others more over the next three hours before taking his own life.
Nearly all Americans see this event for what it was, a viscous, heart-breaking and monumental massacre. But while we may hold the event in the same regard, that’s where the common ground ends. We generally don’t rally around domestic tragedies anymore—we just don’t. There’s a collective empathy swirling around somewhere in there, but it tends to only peek its head in to make way for more arguing about guns. The polarity in this realm grows stronger and deeper with each event; we are sliding further and further away from one another.
Mass killings on our own soil, while still shocking, are growing less and less so as minutes attached to bullets continue to fly by. As a people, we are scared, frustrated and frantically grasping for a miracle solution. We’re desperate. As a nation, we are waist-deep in complacency, we argue after each attack, nothing gets done, another shooting occurs and we start the cycle all over again. After each of these events, the left calls for more gun control, and the right calls for less gun control and more bombs sent towards our enemies. Everyone is looking for ways to stop these tragedies, we’re just coming at it from entirely different angles. And when the stakes are raised, the distance between us expands and the conversation grows more vitriolic—it always does.
Well it’s time to step beyond the vitriol and wade within the logic pool for a spell.
Subtraction by addition does not work.
If we made it easier to buy guns, it would mean more guns and more bullets and more crazy people with said guns and said bullets and, consequently, more innocent people killed by those guns and bullets. Recent proposed gun control measures would do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to keep guns out of hands of law-abiding citizens. Furthermore, adding more guns into our culture, a culture that is already filled to the brim with firearms, would serve only to prove that, at our core, we are a nation that is helplessly stitched to violence.
Gun control is, obviously, not only issue at play here, but it’s one of them, and its one we can, and should, absolutely do something about. To outright dismiss any and all gun control legislation at this juncture is simply irresponsible and myopic. The Second Amendment states: “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.” The term, “well regulated militia” is the most important and debated portion of the language of the amendment. Supreme Court Justice Stevens, speaks on the language of the amendment in his dissent for District of Columbia v. Heller, citing the 1934 National Firearms Act and the 1939 ruling of United States v. Miller,
“The view of the Amendment we took in Miller—that it protects the right to keep and bear arms for certain military purposes, but that it does not curtail the Legislature’s power to regulate the nonmilitary use and ownership of weapons—is both the most natural reading of the Amendment’s text and the interpretation most faithful to the history of its adoption.”
To clarify, the Second Amendment, through numerous interpretations, does in no way infer that the federal government cannot and/or should not limit the type or amount of weaponry its citizens are allowed to purchase. We are not speaking about the right to bear arms, we are speaking about the right to bare certain arms in certain scenarios. The fact that individuals on the No Fly list are able to purchase serious weapons is certifiably insane. Even if you’re a card-carrying member of the NRA, you should be on board with this. This staggering legal omission is something we will look back on in complete and utter disbelief. And in what scenario exactly would this measure impact a law-abiding hunter, or an everyday homeowner who purchases a pistol for protection?
This answer is, it wouldn’t.
Moreover, why does any American citizen need an AR-15? It’s a crappy hunting rifle and an incredibly dangerous self-defense tool. It can hold a 100-round clip and shoot 45 rounds per minute without modifications. People don’t need this gun, people want this gun. But the fact is, AR-15 style rifles have been used in four of the deadliest mass shootings in our history: Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown,Connecticut (26 killed,) the Century 16 theater in Aurora, Colorado (12 killed,) the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California (14 killed) and now the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida (49 killed.) It would stand to reason that limiting the availability of weapons like AR-15 style rifles would be a logical and obvious step to take in our current situation. Re-instituting the ban on assault weapons and making it so those on the No Fly list can’t buy weapons legally is not infringing upon our second amendment rights, its altering outlying parameters to ensure the laws of this nation evolve with the rapidly shifting landscape. We are not talking about rounding up all the guns and destroying them, we are talking about remarkably small measures that may help make it a bit more difficult for a potentially dangerous individual to purchase a tool that can help him/her kill large numbers of people.
There’s this pervasive fear that stricter gun laws will only serve to keep guns away from the good guys, and do nothing to prevent mass shootings, but the data simply doesn’t support this. Stricter gun laws in Japan, Canada, Australia and the UK have all led to lower homicide rates and far fewer gun deaths. Guns are as American as, well, guns. They’re deeply woven within our society, and thus, any proposed alteration to laws involving firearms in the U.S. is bound to provoke a vocal backlash. But we have to work our way to some sort or productive middle ground here or we are destined to remain in the purgatory between progression and regression.
The proposed gun control measures are not the first step towards some sort of McCarthy-era, firearm roundup, everything that has been proposed is minor in application and impact.
We’re talking baby steps: more thorough backgrounds checks, cleaning up private sale and gun show loopholes, the aforementioned No Fly list issue, and the limitation of certain, highly-customizable rifles for civilian use.
American citizens will still be able to own a gun. Multiple guns in fact. Guns of all colors, shapes and sizes. Tons of guns. When last measured, the U.S. has 88 guns per 100 of its citizens (second place is Norway with 31.) We also have more than triple the amount of firearm homicides than any other country.
So why not try something new for a spell to see if it makes a difference? It’s clear maintaining the status quo has not been successful.
And the status quo is pro-gun.
We can no longer afford to be so unbendable, so stoic and intransigent—we have to at least try something. Will these small measures solve everything, absolutely not. There is no catch-all solution to this problem. But even if they help a little, even if they make it a bit more difficult for a lunatic to obtain a gun he/she can use to take innocent lives, isn’t that worth it?
If we look into the face of violence and death from gun violence and don’t even try to do anything, then we are complicit in future gun violence.
It’s been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
This quote has become a wildly overused crutch in American political writing—I wonder why.
Written by Jesse Mechanic
Jesse Mechanic is the editor in chief of The Overgrown.