If I See Another Opinion Piece on Gun Control…
W e all have an opinion on guns, whether we voice it or not. The problem is — we’re all so opinionated, so polarized, that nothing ever changes.
No matter who I speak to about this topic, there is one thing we all have in common; we all want to feel safe. Whether that means we all have as many guns as we like; restrictions are put on the types of guns we have access to; or guns are completely confiscated (never gonna happen, let’s be honest).
It’s crystal clear to me why lawmakers of this country have been too chicken-shit to make an executive decision on gun reform. Opinions are too contradictory. People are too radical. The outcome of such a decision is too terrifying.
But we’re not even halfway through 2022, and already we’ve had 214 mass shootings and a total of 17,300 deaths. By my limited skill in math, I believe that works out to be 1.7 shootings and 115 murders every day.
In 2018, there were 323 mass shootings, and that number has increased exponentially every year — even during lockdowns. We’re on an upward trend, in an uphill battle, with no upsides to this madness.
There are now talks of a new bill, dubbed “Protecting our Kids Act”, that would make some much-needed changes to America’s gun laws. One of the changes is to raise the lawful age to purchase a semiautomatic centerfire rifle from 18 to 21. Gun trafficking and the sale of large-capacity magazines could be outlawed.
They’re talking of a buyback program—which is what they did in Australia after their first and only mass shooting occurred in 1996. Individuals were compensated for surrendering their guns. In America’s new bill, they’d be compensated for surrendering magazines. And tax credits for the sale of safe storage devices are also on the bill.
Though Democrats are likely to pass the bill on their side, it isn’t predicted to pass the Republican-led filibuster in the Senate. No surprises, there.
It’s a step in the right direction—if passed. But it doesn’t stop the problem. Teenagers can still get their hands on guns, and adults can still access semiautomatic rifles.
Like a Bad Trip on Acid
If I had to liken America’s mass shooting problem to something, I’d describe it as a bad acid trip — an impending loop — that goes like this:
A mentally unstable person shoots up a school/church/supermarket with a semi-automatic weapon. People die. We all feel sad. Thoughts and prayers. We get angry. Guns are bad. Guns don’t kill people; people kill people. Save our children. You can’t take our guns. Second Amendment. Silence. Aaaaand repeat.
For those of you who have never been on a bad acid trip, let me tell you, it’s one of the most frightening experiences. An acid trip loop takes you from feelings of exhilaration and euphoria to feeling like you’ve completely lost your mind.
The good news about acid trips is that they do end—eventually. I wish we could say the same thing about mass shootings in the US.
I am Privileged
I’m an Australian who relocated to the US a few years ago, and I consider myself far more privileged than every American who grew up here — even the wealthy. Because I grew up so safe. You can’t even compare just how safe it is growing up in Australia in comparison to the United States.
It isn’t really cool to own a gun in Australia. Almost no one does. We need to jump through hoops to get one, and the only people who have them are farmers, keen hunters, the military, and veterans. Everyone seems to be more into rugby and beer than guns.
There’s the occasional gang-related shooting. But it’s so easy to avoid gun violence just by choosing not to live in certain suburbs.
It’s not just about guns, either. We don’t border any other country. So anyone wanting to abduct a kid and take them across borders would need to fly, boat, or swim.
Our entire nation has two million people less than Texas, on a landmass only a third smaller than the United States. We have seven states, with the bulk of the population living in just two of those. There are fewer people, which means fewer mentally unstable and dangerous people.
I’m not trying to rub your noses in, like, “the US is a dumpster fire, and Australia’s so much better!”
No. While I do love my home, I also love the United States — my second home. There are so many things here that completely shit all over Australia. Theme parks. Cinemas. River floating. Halloween. Snow season. Corn hole. The list goes on.
But as a woman who now lives in the US and will raise my future children here, I’m completely terrified. The idea of sending your children to school one day and never seeing them again shouldn’t be a parent’s everyday reality.
You Deserve Better
I don’t think many Americans realize this because it’s just such a normal and accepted reality, but you deserve better. Your kids deserve better.
The only way I can see things getting better is if everyone makes sacrifices.
If the law for purchasing assault rifles is restricted, this essentially pisses both sides off. Gun fanatics will think their guns are being taken away from them. And gun haters will be upset that assault rifles are still available at all.
It’s a lose-lose, which is really a win-win. A very minuscule win, at that. But it’s such a small sacrifice and is what we grown-ups like to call progress. It isn’t rocket science, but it is common sense, and it’s also how humanity has come this far in the first place.
A Mental Health Problem
Guns don’t kill people—people kill people. Yes. You’re absolutely right.
But what do you think will garner faster results? Profiling potential mass shooters and then treating them in the hope to minimize their desire to shoot up their classmates?
Or decreasing everyone’s access to assault rifles?
Ideally, both need to happen. But the former solution takes time and resources, and the person in treatment needs a support system to get better. Yet historically, the majority of those who execute mass shootings are neglected and don't have that support in the first place.
According to Jillian Peterson, an associate professor of criminology at Hamline University, mass shooters' histories and pathways are consistent:
“Early childhood trauma seems to be the foundation, whether violence in the home, sexual assault, parental suicides, extreme bullying. Then you see the build toward hopelessness, despair, isolation, self-loathing, oftentimes rejection from peers. That turns into a really identifiable crisis point where they’re acting differently. Sometimes they have previous suicide attempts.”
Salvador Ramos came from a broken home and was estranged from both his parents. Payton S. Gendron‘s parents took little interest in their son as he fell deep into the world of white supremacy. And Ethan Crumbley’s parents neglected to get their son help even after his school repeatedly warned them.
How can a person’s mental health be addressed and improved when their own parents aren't even there for them?
The Land of Missed Opportunities
Ironically, this article is an opinion piece. But I wanted to highlight the fact that, we all have so much to say, and yet nothing ever changes.
Sadly, I believe that nothing will change and the mass shootings this year will exceed last year’s total of 693. Though, I‘ve never wanted to be more wrong about something.
This is the land of opportunity. But as long as we stay divided, our opportunities are limited, and it’s a losing battle for everyone.