By Tatiana Bogdanov
26 people were killed on November 5th. Another 20 were injured. Texas experienced its worst mass shooting in modern history, in a church. Sutherland Springs, the community in which it took place, is shaken.
The pastor’s 14-year-old daughter is among the dead.
Devin Patrick Kelley is the perpetrator of this crime. At around 11:20 am, he was seen at a gas station across from the church. Shortly after, he crossed the road, and opened fire as he entered. The shooter soon fled the church, as another resident opened fire on him. He was later found dead in his car due to a gunshot wound.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen something like this. Hell, it’s far from the first time we’ve seen something like this. Take a look at what happened in Las Vegas, where 58 people died and 546 were injured, the single deadliest mass shooting in American history. The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, where 20 children died, remains burned into many people’s minds.
Under the most narrow definition of mass shooting used by the Congressional Research Service, America has seen 10 from January 1st to November 5th of this year, one a month. Under the broader definition that the Gun Violence Archive uses, America has seen 307 mass shootings at the same time, raising the average to seven a week.
So what’s wrong? Why is this happening, in one of the most developed countries in the world? Why are we seeing so many innocent people reduced to statistics?
I’d wager to say that gun control may be the issue here.
Apparently, not even a shooting where 58 people were killed can convince American lawmakers that something has to be done. Not even a shooting where kids lost their lives could convince American lawmakers that something has to change. Not even a shooting in a church, a sacred place for the 67.3% of Americans that practice Christianity/Catholicism, is enough for a, “huh, maybe laws do have to change”.
Of course, not every American is turning a blind eye to this. In fact, most aren’t. According to the Pew Research Centre, 52% of Americans believe that gun control laws should be more strict. There is broad support for preventing people with mental illnesses from purchasing guns, requiring background checks at gun shows, and creating a government database to track all gun sales. But, the Centre also finds that these people are less likely to contact government officials about gun law reform, than people that are in favour of less gun control.
So, in the end, nothing gets done.
After a mass shooting in America, the news is overtaken by the event. The conversation, however, has little focus on gun control laws. We receive coverage of what happened, some talk about gun control reform from liberal news sources, and lots of talk about how it’s the fault of mental illness from conservative news sources and the NRA, until something else happens, and the country just… moves on. Shrugs it’s shoulders, and looks away. The debate for stricter gun laws is never long enough to actually push for any change.
It’s almost as if people have become numb to the carnage because we see it so often.
And of course, conservative news sources aren’t necessarily wrong; America does need a better way of “dealing” with people with mental illnesses. They need to implement more support, more understanding; destigmatize it so people feel comfortable seeking out this support. Make psychiatric services more accessible for legitimately struggling people.
But I personally don’t think this is the root of the problem. The way America deals with mental illness also has to be discussed, but the number one way of preventing so many mass shootings?
Gun control laws.
We’ve seen it around the world. It’s not a particularly radical idea.
In 1996, Australia experienced its history’s worst mass shooting, and promptly tightened up gun control (which included buying and destroying over 600,000 firearms from its population), and it hasn’t had a mass shooting since. After a school shooting in the UK, the Firearms Act 1997 was passed and all gun crimes fell dramatically. Japan has banned all swords and firearms, with a 1958 law stating, “no one shall possess a firearm, or firearms, or a sword, or swords,” and in 2014, only had six reported gun deaths.
Even Canada, perhaps the most similar country to the US, deals with gun laws better. And, we can still be considered as “having a gun control problem.” We have the fourth highest rate of gun homicides when compared to the countries in the European Union. 331 shootings have taken place in Toronto this year alone. We just have to look at the shooting that occurred at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City on January 29th, to know that Canada has work to do too.
Comparing Canada to the US though? It makes Canada seem pretty damn strict. Canada implements background checks for anyone purchasing a firearm, in any situation, focusing on mental illness and addiction. The US only requires one when purchasing from a licensed dealers. Canadian residents wishing to purchase a firearm are required to take a safety course, which includes a written and practical exam, and have to retake it every five years. In the US, there is often no such requirement.
As Canadian citizens, as the neighbours of the good ol’ USA, we have to be concerned about this problem. What starts in the US can spread all around the world.
We’ve seen that with Donald Trump and his ideologies, with 92 lawmakers part of a far-right party being elected in Germany, with the January mosque shooting in Canada being perpetuated by a man who expressed support for Trump.
So for now, we should work on minimizing gun violence in Canada and the countries still dealing with this problem, and hope that the US follows suit. No country should have citizens dying for no reason at all.
“How many people will have to die before we will give up these dangerous toys?”
-Stephen King, Guns
Do you agree or disagree? Share your opinion here.