Mass shootings are a part of life for U.S. residents and they can occur anywhere — from churches to schools to stores — no place is free from the threat of violence and domestic terrorism a mass shooter brings.
And, after every shooting, there is the argument between “left” and “right” politically leaning individuals on what needs to be done.
Well, not really.
People on the right say, “thoughts and prayers to victims but if you think guns are the problem you sound ridiculous”. Or they say we need to look at mental health because that is the issue, not the guns.
After today’s Walmart shooting in El Paso Texas, some are already making sarcastic jokes attacking individuals, rightfully angry that nothing has or is being done to prevent mass shootings, for having the “ludicrous” idea that access to guns needs to be addressed.
Their callous sarcasm doesn’t change the fact that we are on day 215 (August 3rd) in the year 2019 and there have been — according to Gun Violence Archive, an organization that records gun violence — 249 mass shootings (4 or more shot or killed, not counting the shooter).
2016 was the year with the highest amount of mass shootings — 382 mass shootings — in a 356 day year.
These are just mass shootings. This year alone there have been, again in 215 days, almost 33,000 total gun related incidents. Of those:
— almost 1,800 kids between 12 and 17 killed or injured
— almost 400 kids between 0 and 11 killed or injured
So, what is the issue? Are guns to blame? Are people?
The tragedy is that for so many it always seems to be a “choose one” answer.
These incidents don’t exist in a vacuum, there are layers from race, gender, political, age, societal, mental health, economical, and gun accessibility.
When it comes to mass shootings depending on the study, how mass shooting is defined (how many are shot, gang-related shootings, etc):
Over 90% of mass shooters are men
55–70% are white men
Since the majority are men, especially white men, there needs to be a discussion about what white men have — thanks to this colonial, patriarchal system — are taught to expect. It breeds toxic, fatal behavior that says, “If I don’t get what I want, it’s someone else’s fault”, because this society teaches that white and male are the two most coveted traits to have and, as such, they shouldn’t struggle in life.
Doors should fly open for them and when they don’t, violence occurs. Especially when they are given someone to blame.
Race plays a role as well because shooters of different races are portrayed differently in mass media and society at large. Despite the percentages, when it’s a Black man who is a mass shooter, they are vilified in the media and connected to some organization that society, media and government want to label as “terrorists”.
Yet their white counterparts — who account for the majority of mass shootings — are labeled “lone gunman” who were “quiet”, “gentle”, who no one would ever believe could do “something like this”.
These disparities will continue to give white males that coddled sense of privilege and entitlement that endangers us all.
Are all mass shooters suffering from mental health issues? Not necessarily.
If killing alone were proof of mental disability, no one would be in jail. Also, as a lot of these are white males of a particularly upbringing the issue is less about mental health.
Racism, toxic masculinity and the entitlement that comes with being in the white, male demographic (mental societal conditioning) is part of the discussion that needs to be had; the other part is mental health.
Currently there are two ways to be federally deemed unlawful to own a gun and that is if the person is involuntarily committed or a court or government body consider them a danger to themselves or others.
When this happens, the information should be entered into the National Instant Background Check System (NICS); however, it is not federally mandated that states must enter this information into the system, it is done voluntarily.
Not to mention, since many states have never submitted information into NICS index, they now have a backlog of years of information that would disqualify individuals from purchasing a firearm to go through and not enough time or people to do it quickly and efficiently.
Most mass shootings are done with legally obtained weapons. Therefore, every gun owner should be required to have yearly mental health checkups to determine whether it is still safe for everyone, including themselves, to own a gun.
In instances of arrest for any form of violence, guns should immediately be taken while an investigation, including a psychiatric evaluation, are conducted. Better that the gun owner feel “put out” that their guns are taken away than people murdered.
If the person is deemed a threat to themselves or others, guns should be withheld and their information should be put into the NICS index immediately. To deal with the backlog in states, there should be additional staff hired specifically to enter in this life-saving data into NICS.
There are many steps that need to be taken to try and prevent the next mass shooting from happening. It’s no surprise that most mass shootings take place in states with weaker gun laws (Texas has one of the weakest gun laws and 4 of the 10 largest mass shootings were there). We need to think both long term and short term.
Federally require states to enter disqualifying information in the NICS database. Give them a deadline to complete the backlog, provide resources if necessary to ensure they have what they need to do so in an efficient and timely manner.
Close the “gun show loophole” that allows private gun owners to resale their gun without the necessary background check (only federally licensed sellers are required to do a background check).
Pass laws raising the age for purchasing a firearm, as well as Extreme Risk Protection Order which allows family members or law enforcement to petition courts to have guns temporarily removed from individuals who are a danger.
Yearly funding for facilities (in all states) to be properly staffed and equipped to help people who are experiencing mental health issues. From weekly checkups, to medication, to support groups so that individuals who are in crisis. (As it is now funding is typically cut for mental health, particularly for the poor and marginalized as they’d rather gun us down or lock us up).
Studies relating to male aggression, racial white identity in a colonial society, empathy and how these interconnect with entitlement and accountability. Because oftentimes, these domestic terrorists are not mentally ill, but filled with a hate that was taught and directed at BIPOC for no other reason than their desire for a scapegoat.
Studies relating to how society and mass media play a role in shaping and/or maintaining traditional race, gender, disability narratives.
We need to understand why this is happening. So as people we can continue pushing for equality, destruction of the racial hierarchy and gender framework that limits all our potential.
It’s lazy thinking to simply say, “well even without guns, they’ll find a way to kill people” or “evil is evil”. It removes individual and societal accountability.
Simply put, a child wanted to kill themselves or others none of us would give a “they’ll find a way no matter what I do” shrug. We would take their weapons away, and get help.
Why would we do any less when there are millions of lives, from babies to the elderly, on the line?
Update: There was another mass shooting in Ohio. Another young, white male went on a killing spree.
There needs to be a dialogue about the white supremacist rhetoric this society was built upon and groups from the media to the administration need to be held accountable for their words that motivate monsters like this to act.