BY MARIAH SMITH
Yet again, tragedy strikes the nation at the hands of a domestic monster and a gun. Last time I wrote about a gunman at a concert in Vegas (See previous article, Gun Violence: There’s Gotta Be A Solution). This time, a gunman at a Baptist church outside of San Antonio. This time, the terrorist in question is Devin Patrick Kelley- twenty-six, white and American- grossly similar to sixty-four-year-old Stephen Paddock.
Here are the facts: Kelley walked into a church that he once regularly attended. He pulled out an assault rifle, and took out his mama (in-law) drama on her fellow churchgoers, wrongly expecting her to be there. He claimed the lives of twenty-six people and injured twenty others, being dubbed Texas’ deadliest shooting in modern history. The victims ranged from ages one to seventy-seven. ONE year old. And many others were under the age of eighteen.
An armed resident nearby heard the gunshots and ran to the scene, and is said to have shot him in the leg and torso as he was leaving the church, but his likely cause of death was a self-inflicted shot to the head. He was found dead in his car by authorities shortly after the attack.
A lot about the gunman’s past has been surfacing since the shooting occurred, begging the question as to how he got his hands on a gun — legally. For starters, he had a long record of violence, including domestic disputes with his wife and physical abuse of his stepson, as well as a charge of animal cruelty. This later resulted in his being discharged from the Air Force in 2014 for bad conduct, after serving time in both military prison and a New Mexico mental health facility which he escaped from in 2012. His Facebook page was threatening and violent, to say the least. Many people that knew him personally have claimed to feel uneasy around him.
The Air Force stated that it mishandled the records of his domestic violence conviction and discharge to law enforcement and their criminal database. Had this information been shared properly, it could have prevented him from legally purchasing the weapons that he used in the attack. Kelley was denied the ability to receive a license to carry a gun in the state, however, just last year he passed the background check needed to buy the gun that is believed to have been used. The FBI has his phone and is working around an encryption to extract information from it.
A rumor was widely spread on social media that Kelley’s attack was stemmed from an Antifa agenda. (Here’s more information about the group if you need a rundown like I did: http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/14/us/what-is-antifa-trnd/index.html) This rumor has been dissolved. The attack is not believed to be racially, religiously, or politically motivated. The investigation points to personal issues with the gunman’s mother-in-law as the sole motive.
And of course, as I did a month ago when 58 people died and 546 were injured, I’m asking again: When will enough really be enough in America? How can people still sit here and defend this terrorist’s (and potential terrorists like him) right to own a gun when his past is riddled with reasons and warnings that suggest more potential for violence? How can people possibly turn to thoughts and prayers when the victims were literally praying themselves when they died? Yes, please pray, please send good vibes into the universe, but let’s try taking action, too. We need change. We need better policy. We don’t need the NRA in our lawmakers’ ears and wallets any longer. Love your guns all you want, and if you are a safe, responsible owner, that’s great, more power to you! But you know- I know- everyone knows this could have and should have been prevented.
My previous article lists some solutions that I think could work, as well on overall opinion about how gun violence issues are handled in the US. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have a clear, in-depth understanding of the system as a whole and how it works. I don’t know what changes are feasible, or what their consequences will be. I do know that our Constitution was written to be modified as necessary with a changing society, and the second amendment has failed to receive appropriate changes. I know that innocent people are dying. I know that something needs to change, and there is always a solution. It will be complicated, and it will need serious modification through time, but it will be better than (what seems like) the nothing that we have now. We are out of time to sit and watch this continue any longer.
Learn about things that are actually happening. Research how things in our government work. Research your political candidates. Know who and what you’re voting for. Hold them accountable. Call your lawmakers and representatives. I know it’s easier said than done, and I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t admit that I haven’t done this myself yet, but I will start. Politics is tough, and boring sometimes, and really hard to understand, too- but it matters. It’s more than a right or a privilege now; it’s our duty as citizens to participate in government. It’s our duty to care. We have this beautiful gift of democracy in our laps. LET’S USE IT.