Texans are known for their love of guns. Growing up in this state, I learned that trying to convince people that, in many instances, firearms are anything but beneficial to society was a pointless exercise. Any mention of gun control would be met with sympathetic looks at my lack of understanding of a concept that was so simple.
“Anna, guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”
“Anna, guns are literally a part of the Bill of Rights. They are a part of the American Dream.”
This past Sunday night in Las Vegas we witnessed the American Dream warp itself into something sinister once again. Stephen Paddock opened fire on a crowd at a country music festival from the window of his 32nd floor room in the Mandalay Resort and Casino. Using a semiautomatic weapon, he killed at least 59 people and injured over 500.
Almost immediately after this tragic event, I noticed my friends who had once expressed wishes to own their own rifles now had taken to twitter and Facebook to stress the essentiality of gun control. The idea that it takes a mass shooting to tear up the foundation of a stance on gun control that has been cemented in place for a lifetime is not a comforting one. Even in the wake of a tragedy, is the public aware that an average of 95 deaths related to gun violence per day is not and should not be the norm?
The ease with which a person can obtain a semiautomatic weapon is frightening. In the state of Nevada, a firearm can be purchased without a permit and does not need to be registered. Paddock could have walked into a gun shop and purchased everything his crime required within a twenty-four-hour period. He even was able to purchase a “bump stock,” a device added on to a firearm that allowed him to shoot continuously with the same efficiency of a machine gun. The NRA argues that this kind of weaponry is used for basic self-defense, recreational use, and hunting and is not produced as weapons of mass destruction.
The intent of the producers is not what is important in this situation. What is important is how the devices are actually being used. What is important is the fact that an average of 12,000 people are killed annually because of gun violence according to the CDC. What is important is that despite the overwhelming evidence that our current system is not working, virtually nothing is being done to remedy the situation.
Yes, it has again taken a tragedy to grab the nation’s attention, but history shows that this attention has a lifespan that is likely to be short. In the past, mass shootings have frightened and infuriated the public, inspiring them to try and change a system with roots extending deep into this country’s politics and culture. There is a period of dissent that swells as people demand an end to the types of policies that make the senseless slaughter of first grade students in Connecticut possible. Concerned citizens try and urge the regulation of instruments that can steal away fifty-nine futures with the pull of a trigger. Then, this concern will begin to gradually lose its velocity until the only people still fighting are the people who have lost too much to do anything else. It takes a tragedy to make a nation see what needs to be changed. It takes an individual to make sure that this change sees the light of day.