The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not reflect in any way those of the Tiger Media Network, its staff or Fort Hays State University.
BY MARIAH SMITH
The most recent tragedy that fell on our country was at a country music concert in Las Vegas on Sunday evening. Investigations have found one suspect, terrorist Stephen Paddock, used illegal modifications on his rifle to make it a rapid-fire weapon. He shot hundreds of bullets from his 32nd-floor hotel room overlooking the concert into the crowd killing (at the time of this writing) 59 people, and injuring 500 more. This has been named the deadliest mass shooting in modern history- topping the Orlando, Florida Pulse Nightclub tragedy just 16 months ago.
The tragedy is, that in the last few years, things like this have happened almost every day in this country- maybe not at this scale of deaths and injuries, but enough so that we are numb to the devastation and the coverage of them in the media. With Sunday being the 274th day in 2017, the United States has seen 273 mass shootings. In total, more than 1500 injured and 300 people dead (CBS News). Gone. 300 families mourning their losses. Stats like these are causing yet another nationwide debate. Naturally, people are trying to find the cause and a solution, and that puts a massive spotlight on the topic of that good ol’ second amendment that we Americans love so much- the right to bear arms.
And from there we talk about gun control. Are guns the issue? Or are people the issue? Well, that’s a stupid question because people are always the issue. Here’s an analogy- take it or leave it: When drunk driving was found to cause a lot of accidents and deaths, it was regulated- it was discussed and addressed in legislation. Same with texting and driving. You can no longer do these things legally, and if you chose to continue, you are well-aware that you are risking criminal charges if caught. Did the problem lie in the phones, the alcohol or the cars? No. It was people misusing them and putting endless lives at risk. Same with guns. Guns themselves aren’t the problem but when they are unregulated like they are now, it puts that many more lives at risk. The guns are working efficiently, clearly. It’s the people holding them and their intentions that are at the root of the problem- I think everyone can agree on that. However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a flaw with the way guns are handed out today.
A very small percentage of people want to take all the guns away from every person. This is not only unlikely, it is also unreasonable. The right to own a gun, just the like right to speak and think freely, and the right to vote in a democracy are huge privileges that citizens of this country are granted. It is part of what makes this country so special. You can relax. Your guns are safe… probably. Many people, however, do want to improve the current system in place. I mean, after all, you can’t vote or speak freely if you’re a victim of gun violence.
Wouldn’t it be great to have a way to detect the people who will misuse them before they are cleared to own and operate a gun? Maybe in the form of a psychological or emotional competency examination. Maybe something similar to what military and police recruits are required to pass before they join, and must continue to pass in order to remain. Something a little more in-depth than a background check could make all the difference.
Or maybe we could make it so impractical weapons- the kinds that would never realistically be used for self-defense or hunting- aren’t on the market. Here is where people come in with their “this wouldn’t have stopped [insert any recent terrorist name]” and “[Insert terrorist name]’s weapon was illegal” arguments. That’s great. I’m relieved to know that there are some kinds of guns that are outlawed. But any modification of these laws will be better than what we have now. I can’t help but believe that it will at least deter some people from having such open access. Avoiding the possibility of even one more mass shooting like this is worth it to me. The number of prevented deaths would be exponentially greater, right?
“Even if it’s outlawed and removed from the market entirely, there are still ways to get them.” Right, of course. Like any other illegal product. But that’s what the DEA is for, regulating the use and distribution of illegal drugs. Could we make a DEA force for firearms and their owners and distribution/distributors? Does that already exist? It could use some major improvements if it does. I’m asking honestly because I really don’t know, but I believe that the solution has to lie in gun regulation. Many countries have had various changes to their gun policies and are seeing tremendous success- decreases in both mass shootings and suicides- another topic not too far a reach from the gun conversation.
This trend of violence and slaughter in this country has only been increasing every day in the last few years. And that isn’t showing that it will change on its own. Unfortunately, it seems like a lot of people won’t understand how beneficial a conversation about closing the loopholes and raising the standards for gun owners will be. Not until a tragedy like this personally affects them- a friend, a mother, a child, or they themselves harmed in the line of someone else’s rage. I pray that it doesn’t take a personal tragedy to change some of your minds. I pray something like this never has to happen to anyone ever again, whether they agree with me or not. But the fact is, all of these deaths and injuries could have been prevented, for one, but weren’t. And since they weren’t and it is not sparking a single change or conversation thereof in Congress, I feel these innocent lives were lost in vain.
We as a society send our thoughts and prayers toward every tragedy but thoughts and prayers don’t prevent these kinds of things from happening again tomorrow like we know it will. It’s more than “the constitution says we all get guns, so we all get guns”- which by the way was written when guns meant something different totally different. It’s more than one individual shooter and the technicalities of their case- he still would have done this or that. It’s more than your guns, or my guns, or my dad’s guns. It’s the safety of citizens in their day to day lives. It’s the ability to go see your favorite band, or movie, or go to work, or the store without even having the thought cross your mind that you might not make it back home.
If one thing is certain, it is that devastating tragedies like these tend to bring out the absolute worst in many people. These times should be met with compassion, unity, and solutions. Instead, that is being overshadowed by division and pointing fingers. That’s not the point. We are Americans. We are human beings, and damn it, we are better than this. If you can, please find a way to contribute something beautiful and positive in the world. It doesn’t have to be big, but when everyone makes small acts of kindness a habit, it can create big change and be felt across the world. Maybe, even eradicate the trend of violence and murders entirely. Maybe not, but I’m a millennial and a proud liberal ‘snowflake.’ I’m hopeful to a fault, but my hope is all that I have to keep me sane in this world full of hate.
Here are some tips:
If you see a statement that you disagree with enough to challenge it, do so in an open, respectful and understanding way. We will never get anywhere arguing and being ugly toward each other. You can state facts, you can share your opinions and personal stories, you can question and challenge those of others. That’s one of the beautiful things about this country- we can openly debate, but when you come at it with a closed mind, or full of hate because they’re on the other side, they’ll put their walls up too and no one wins. No one walks away gaining any perspective or knowledge, just anger and further division- which is the opposite of progression. It can’t be an us or them mentality, even though it’s so easy to get that way.
Try to avoid personally attacking their character or adding in irrelevant points or subject matter. It’s not about them, and it’s definitely not about last week’s NFL kneeling debate.
Lastly, check your pride at the door. Come into it understanding that you may not change their opinion, and you may find that you are wrong or not as knowledgeable as they are- take that L and turn it into a learning experience. You may even have a change of heart. That’s okay. That’s just the nature of a good and wholesome conversation sometimes.
If you can’t remember all these, just remember to talk to them like they are your boss or grandma. If you have any common sense, you know what I mean. They might not reciprocate that respect. They might be so nasty and ignorant, but it will always pay off to be the bigger person. If it seems like they’re keeping the conversation from going anywhere, just walk away. They’re not there to learn, and there’s nothing you can say to change that.
Maybe if we can debate successfully, we can avoid diving ourselves. And if we are united, we can then collectively come together to find a solution. We will probably find more similarities than differences.
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know much about guns and I’m not an expert on the current laws in place. I do know that people are dying by the dozens every day from them, and I see that as a threat and a problem, something that needs to be solved. I’m sure this hasn’t convinced anyone to change their opinion, but my prayer is that it at least opens some minds. Maybe even opens up a conversation about the things we would all like to see in our country. I just hope, above all, that you hug your loved ones as tight as we Americans hug our weapons everyday from now on. They could apparently be taken away from you at any moment- your family, not your guns.
This is my formal ‘shoutout’ to all the first responders and in catastrophes like these. I don’t know what I would do as a civilian in this situation (I pray I never have to find out), but your bravery and ability to run into the line of fire to get people out and help those injured and fighting for their lives never goes unnoticed. You are heroes, and the people whose lives you save will always see you as such- even if you don’t see it yourself.
To the civilians who stayed behind and helped instead of running to safety, you are the most selfless and pure souls the world has to offer. Words can’t even express what that means to possess that kind of character. All I can say is, I look up to you, and the world needs more people like you.
To those who offered shelter and transportation, thank you for your quick thinking and action. Finding safety at a time like that is crucial to the victims, and your assistance is often unnoticed. To those who lined up to donate blood, you are blessings. It’s easy to feel like it’s too late and there is nothing that you can do to help. Donating blood is great because it costs nothing, but it still saves lives in ways that money can’t. To the amazing hospital surgeons, doctors, nurses and staff that had the task of taking in and healing in the 500+ injured victims, of course, you save lives every day, but in this volume!? I can’t imagine how long your day was, and to give every patient 200% of your energy and effort over and over again is inspirational beyond words.
To the families of the victims who lost their lives, I’m sorry. I’m sorry this happened. I’m sorry this wasn’t prevented. That tragedies like this are normal in this country. I’m sorry that you and your loved ones have to suffer because someone was angry, or mentally ill, or just plain evil and had to take it out on innocent lives. I have been trying to read about each victim’s lives, and each story breaks my heart like it was brand new. Your loved ones were amazing, beautiful people, and the country is suffering tremendously by their loss as well. I hope you are able to find peace and express love and positivity throughout the world, despite the tragedies you are facing. I know I have the whole FHSU Tiger family behind me when I say I am so incredibly sorry.