by: Michael Shields
When will enough be enough, or are routine casualties an acceptable cost of ensuring our right to arms?
We are to blame. All of us. There is no other way to look at it anymore. These mass murders. These senseless killings. Their occurrences are now as frequent as the news of a major sports scandal, or a devastating weather event. Reminders in the form of egg all over our face that we chose to not to do anything to prevent unfathomable amounts of pain to unwitting families since the last national tragedy. Without even the opportunity to fully heal and deal with the fallout from the abhorrent mass murders in Charleston, here we are again. Another town’s name hauntingly rests in our collective consciousness. Chattanooga, now spoken in the same breath as Columbine, Fort Hood, Newtown, Aurora and Blacksburg, amongst so many others, geographical reminders that we are never safe. Not at home, nor at school, at work or in our homes. And it is all our fault.
Yes, we. The collective Us. Every single United States citizen – it is our fault. The blood drips from all our palms. Our cumulative body count rises annually. Thousands of lives lost, and the responsibility lies not solely with that disillusioned murderer who pulled the trigger. For it is Us who failed to speak up and do something about this. For it is Us who has failed to demand change. Because if we did indeed stand up in unison and cried out, “No More!” – we could turn the tide. If we really wanted to end the hurt, the senseless killings, it is possible. We have to want to. And it sadly appears, we do not.
The argument that there exists no simple solutions for these mass killings begins to break apart in the understanding of statistics of murders around the world, particularly in countries where gun ownership is next to nothing. It’s the trigger puller, they say, not the weapon itself. But yet, nearly every modern nation in the world has far lower rates of gun violence than the United States. Gun homicides are seven times higher in the United States than in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Other democratic nations with rigorous gun safety laws, and more importantly, far fewer aggregate guns, do not experience the levels of gun violence present in the United States. The truth, and the solution, sits right there in front of us. And yet we do nothing.
There are models out there to follow, ones that prove that without a shadow of a doubt, if America’s love affair with their guns was somehow muted, lives would be saved. The outdated Constitutional rights that so many of us fight for is what is allowing people to die. It is enabling guns to fall into the hands of killers, of the mentally ill, of the angry and the bigoted. The Confederate Flag may have been appropriately taken down, but the sort of weapons that stole from the earth the lives of nine people in Charleston are available in spades. And beyond these devastating and now commonplace mass murders, news seeps almost hourly from urban war zones of deaths caused by bullets flying rapaciously. These people are someone’s father. Someone’s daughter. A person’s brother or sister. And just like that they are gone. Smote from this world for no reason at all. Just like that.
In the case of yesterday’s mass murder in Chattanooga, the word “terrorism” is being thrown around. The killer is brown, and his name was Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeezl and he was reportedly born in Kuwait. But regardless of the killer’s motive, what we are dealing with is just another situation where someone who shouldn’t have had a gun did. And now, there are four less people on this earth. Four less people who will never take another breath, smile or laugh, or see their family and loved ones again.
We will never rid the world of violence. That thought is naive. But it is no more naive than the arguments that are made time and again for the boundless availability of guns in the United States, specifically automatic weapons which make it easier for those with ill intentions to induce so much pain. Sadly, what happened yesterday doesn’t seem odd. It feels like just another day living in the battlefield that is America. Guns, both legally and illegally obtained, flood our streets, and threaten our security. The exact item that so many turn to to feel more secure and to protect their family, is the same thing that makes them vulnerable in the first place, and yet the nation remains divided on the issue, and violently so. It’s not just a travesty that we cannot muster the sense, the strength, and the fortitude to come together and make each other safe from harm. It isn’t simply distressing, it’s categorically pathetic, and wholly embarrassing to say the least.