On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza entered the halls of Sandy Hook Elementary School with three guns in tow and opened fire. 26 people (20 students and 6 adult staff members) were killed. The child victims of the attack were ages six and seven. It was after this horrendous tragedy that stole young and innocent lives that America vowed, “Never again.”
But, unfortunately, it did happen again. And again. And again.
On December 2, 2015, there was San Bernardino. 14 were killed and 22 were wounded. On June 12, 2016, there was a mass shooting at the gay night club Pulse in Orlando, Florida, during Pride Month. 50 people were killed and 53 were injured in the attack.
And now, on October 1, 2017, the United States saw its worst mass shooting to date. At a Jason Aldean concert in Las Vegas, Nevada, a gunman went on a rampage. At this time, 58 people have been killed and over 500 have been taken to hospitals for injuries.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, a mass shooting is when four or more people are injured or killed. In 2017, 461 people have died in mass shootings, in over 270 incidents, across the United States. As well, the United States is the country with the most mass shootings. While the US only has 5% of the world’s population, it bears witness to 31% of public mass shootings.
When these incomprehensible incidents happen, messages of “thoughts and prayers” saturate our social media feeds. Condolences are abundant. Hearts openly break together, as one. We stand collectively, in solidarity. We are #VegasStrong. We hold vigils in the victims’ honors. We tweet. We post Facebook statuses. We cry.
And yet, nothing gets done. Mass shootings are still happening almost every single day in the United States. People are still dying. Lives still are being ruined. Families are still experiencing excruciating loss that can never be repaired.
While it is absolutely important and necessary to come together during these tragedies and to show support for everyone affected by these horrific acts of violence, more needs to be done than administering thoughts and prayers and hoping for the best. Action needs to be taken and laws need to change.
So the question now is: Why hasn’t anything been done to stop these massacres from occurring? Why do we continue to see senseless deaths in one of the most developed nations in the world?
The answer is manifold. There’s the constant political and cultural influence of the National Rifle Association (NRA). There is the argument that it’s too late to do anything, that far too many guys are already out there and that criminals will “find a way.” Some say more guns are the answer, and that if we were all armed we could protect ourselves against these attacks. Then, of course, there are the 2nd Amendment fanatics who shout that it’s an American right to bear arms. The list go on and excuses are plenty.
But, honestly, these arguments are just that: excuses. There are steps we can take, there are measures we can put forth to make the United States safer from gun violence.
We need stricter gun laws. And there is evidence that tighter regulations on guns would help.
Take a look at Australia. In 1996, the Port Arthur massacre occurred. 35 people were killed and 23 were injured. Afterward, Prime Minister John Howard tightened up gun laws. He started a nationwide gun buyback system that exchange citizens’ firearms for money. As a result, the number of firearms in the country was reduced by a third, or 600,000 guns. Since these measures were taken, firearm homicide rates fell. The risk of dying by gunshot dropped by over half.
And there were also no mass shootings.
There are those who argue against implementing something similar in the United States because the two countries are inherently different in regards to the gun cultures we see (for example, the United States has almost as many guns as people – 300 million). Again, there is also the influence of the gun lobby the NRA. There is the 2nd Amendment. However, we have to try. We need to do something. Anything.
We owe it to the victims. We owe it to their families. We owe it to this great country.
After Sandy Hook, there have been 1,518 mass shootings. How many more will we have after Las Vegas? How many times will we say “Never again” until it truly does never happen again? We aren’t hopeless. There are steps we can take, there are things we can do.
So, yes, of course please pray for the families. Think of the victims. Hope for a better world. But take action. Contact your senators and representatives. Join organizations that are fighting to stop gun violence, such as Everytown, Brady Campaign, and Americans For Responsible Solutions.
Something needs to change. Let’s do something already.
Molly is part of the Contributing Writer Network at Thirty on Tap. To apply to become a Contributing Writer, please click here.