Opinion: America’s Endless Mass Shooting Cycle: Where We Went Wrong, What We Can Do To Make It Right

Opinion: America’s Endless Mass Shooting Cycle: Where We Went Wrong, What We Can Do To Make It Right (Sarah Reingewirtz/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)

El Paso, TexasLike the five stages of grief, mass shootings become a cycle that all of us have either witnessed, been part of, or experienced. It goes somewhat like this. Once a mass shooting happens, some of us are in shock, some of us not, sadly. We talk and express emotions like the humans that we are. Sometimes this talk goes on for a couple of weeks, other times it lasts days. Part of this talk is about the media. 

Extreme coverage of the issue, maybe for the following few nights that's all that plays on our TVs, or it's all that’s talked about on our social media. And then what? As I write this I scroll past the vast amount of articles on the Lunar New Year shooting, trying to piece together what happened, it is all too familiar. 

We, of course, don’t forget to give our thoughts and prayers. How long do we think you may ask? I still remember the Aug. 3, 2019 shooting in my hometown of El Paso, Texas. I think for fragments at a time. What happened? I pass by the Walmart and stare at the “grand candela.” Then it goes away, only to return some time later. You may be thinking about it as you read this, and you may also be very well asking yourself when you’ll stop thinking about it. Or maybe you haven’t thought about it yet. But there is no doubt that thought happens. And then what?

Twenty three doves await release outside Walmart as mourners hold crosses honoring those killed in the Walmart shooting which left 23 people dead in a racist attack targeting Latinos on August 3, 2019 in El Paso, Texas. | Mario Tama via Getty Images

We are hurt, and we find a way to let this anger out. I used to have arguments with people about gun reform, I still do if I'm being completely honest. Everyone has their experiences with gun debates. And we may argue for some time, even convince a few people that our system is broken. We may get a few people to listen. Many may not. Many don’t. In fact. Yet still, we do everything in our power to put an end to all of this. And then what?

We feel useless. I used to get so angry about this. What am I supposed to do? It was great that I knew something had to be done. But I ask, we never really do anything in the end. After the El Paso shooting, we were promised better gun control reforms. And then what? This time, I know. Permitless carry was passed. We did nothing. Gov. Greg Abbott will be presenting at an NRA convention to advocate for guns, and I’ll ask what am I to do about that? Texas has had the deadliest mass shootings in the past decade. And we still choose him after the lives of children were lost? It always amazes me how cruel one can be. The question of course, and then what?

We are almost fully through the cycle now, what's next? We return to our “daily normal lives.” Normal of course means it is part of the norm. But this should not be the norm. We shouldn't have to learn which rooms have closets, which doors are nearest to an entrance, searching up if bulletproof backpacks exist, how to listen for footsteps, or what to do if…We should not. And we cannot let this cycle continue. Again, and again, and again, and again. How many more people need to die before you realize it is a problem? How many tears need to be shed before you act? 

We live through different versions of the same story. In 2019 the United States had more mass shootings than days in the year. Even this year there have been more mass shootings than days in the year. These mass shootings had many common factors, starting from the accessibility to arms, and hate-motivated aggression to target children and teens. Two that became almost copy-cat tragedies were the mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and El Paso, Texas. Both white men in their early twenties targeted majority-minority areas. Hispanics became victims in El Paso, and Blacks were targeted in Buffalo. Both traveled to arrive at areas where they could commit genocide on a group of people. This makes gun violence intersectional with social and racial justice. Each of these issues is not stand-alone and should be looked at holistically to come up with a solution. America’s endless mass shooting cycle: Where we went wrong, and what we can do to make it right.

Our laws are letting this happen. It is an access to guns issue. Local and regional elections are most important in tackling this, our representatives will be the ones who will voice our needs, and we need to make sure that we are choosing those that represent us best. Each of us has to do our part to break the cycle. Children and teenagers under 18 of course cannot vote, we need you to change this. It should not be this way. And does not have to. The politicizing of this issue creates an unneeded divide. If something is not working, which it isn’t. Why do we continue to use it? In the U.S. you must be 21 or older to purchase a handgun, however, in Texas it is lawful to buy any weapon at the age of 18. In the instance of the Uvalde School Shooting, the shooter was able to buy two AR-15s after his 18th birthday. Our gun legislation contradicts this, which is one of the biggest places we went wrong. 

We know that there is a problem and we think that advancing and providing more weapons is the solution. It’s not. Take Texas, for example, a state that has the most lenient gun control laws and most weapons but has had the deadliest shootings in the past decade. It is not adding up. More guns do not equal safer communities.

What creates safer communities is legislation that helps address who is possessing these weapons, and what type of weapons they are possessing. Machine guns and Military weapons are not needed for self-defense, these types of arms are typically used in mass shootings. Our nation’s lack of background checks allows those who are prohibited from possessing arms to freely take and use whatever they want.

According to Everytown research “1 in 3, mass shootings involved a shooter that was legally prohibited from possessing firearms at the time of the shooting.”

We will often find blame, motive, or reason. In some instances, it is a mental health, family, social, class, or division issue, etc. One thing we cannot do is use each of these reasons to create an argument for why this happens every time. There is an assumption that mental health issues cause violence, but addressing reasons to avoid that can make this argument faulty. Access to firearms in an emotionally charged state has been a recurring issue for violence. Limiting access to weapons of mass destruction can reduce violence in emotionally charged mass shootings. Finding the why is extremely important here. 

Another example is the normalizing of causal violence, especially in our entertainment industry. Horror and thriller movies won’t make us scared anymore, some of our most popular games involve hunting and killing. Slowly America is creating a norm. There is a chain, and we must understand the root so that we can address each link. 

This chain is long, and I have only skimmed the problem thus far. You’ll notice that you are being asked questions and at the same time being given answers. At the end of the day, it is up to you to decide what you do with that information. Maybe you will give it some thought. Maybe you change your vote. Maybe this is the reason you decide to vote. Maybe you know that this is not okay. I write this so that if you refuse to go back to “normal.” I need you to know that this is not normal. Although it is an endless hurt, It is more than about time we take apart the links and break the cycle.

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