We think we speak for most Americans when we say we’re sickened, we’re frustrated, we’re angry and we’re a little bit scared.
And the worst part is how many times we’ve said this before.
Nothing that happened Thursday in Roseburg, Oregon, is new. It has all happened before — in Charleston, Isla Vista, Newtown and Aurora, and at Virginia Tech. These events have become background newsreel clips in our living rooms and in our posts and reposts on social media feeds. But we cannot continue to accept these tragedies as the norm. Stanching the flow of preventable massacres must be the platform our generation champions.
Not only are mass shootings — when the shooter has killed at least four victims — more prevalent in the United States than in any other developed country, but they have also increased here within the last few decades, especially at schools and on college campuses. And most of the guns that have been used in mass shootings have been purchased legally. Federal law requires only criminal background checks for individuals buying guns from licensed firearm dealers, not through private sales.
Senate Bill 707, which is currently sitting on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, would tighten restrictions by closing exemptions for concealed carry laws on California college campuses. This moderate, tip-toe proposal is not enough. If individuals want to kill their fellow human beings, a ban will not stop them, but enacting real gun-control laws that prevent individuals from accessing deadly weapons might.
As young people, we may often feel disenfranchised and disillusioned by politics, but the need to address gun violence is more pressing than ever. We can and must demand actual change in the way that guns are both perceived and accessed in the United States. This involves the way we frame our discussions around gun violence, especially surrounding mass shootings. We cannot continue to chalk up the violence to a few wayward individuals who slipped through the cracks of mainstream society. Focusing on the psychology of killers can also stigmatize those with mental health issues and detract from the real problem: the fact that guns can be obtained with little to no effort by people who want to do harm to themselves or others.
When studies show that most shootings are crimes of opportunity, enabled by the availability of guns, the fact that we as a country do not move to restrict gun access or ban guns is completely absurd. If we want to truly stymie the scope of gun violence, we must enact legislation similar to that of countries such as Australia and the United Kingdom, which have successfully reduced the number of massacres by reducing civilians’ access to guns.
And although we may be “numb,” as President Barack Obama suggested in his video address after the Roseburg shooting; tired of the senseless killings that have plagued the schools we grew up in and the college campuses we now attend; familiar with the profiles of young, isolated, white male murderers; and unable as a country to recognize the danger that poorly regulated access to guns creates, we need to emerge from our stupor and into political action.
Editorials represent the collective opinion of the Senior Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.