59 people were killed and hundreds more were injured in a mass shooting in Las Vegas and I’m sad to say that when I saw the news, I wasn’t shocked or surprised. It’s a sad state of affairs but these kinds of shootings have become so common that a lot of them aren’t even reported anymore. We only hear about the very worst ones and the rest go unnoticed. In less than 500 days, there have been 512 mass shootings in the USA, how many of them have you heard about? The chances are, not that many.
Every time there is a big news story about a mass shooting, the debate about gun laws in the US starts up again. On the one side, you’ve got people arguing that these tragedies would simply not be possible if it wasn’t so easy to access guns. On the other side, you’ve got people arguing that the right to own a gun is a fundamental part of the constitution and taking away guns is a serious attack on the freedom of the American people. They say that the actions of a few criminals shouldn’t affect the rights of an entire nation, the problem is, it isn’t just a few.
More fuel has been added to the fire in recent years as the victims of police shootings are thrown into the mix. According to Federalcharges.com fatal incidents involving the police are rising every year and 81.7% of those deaths in 2017 were caused by gunshots. Those statistics are even more worrying when you consider that violent crimes have been on the decline since 1996. This is another reason that people are questioning the integrity of the police and challenging the wide availability of guns in the US.
It’s clear that there is a problem with gun crime in the United States and it’s a discussion that is raised every time there’s a mass shooting but the laws aren’t changing. But why not?
People Are Desensitized
Like I said, while I found the recent attack upsetting, I didn’t find it surprising. These events have become so regular in America that people are desensitized to them. There are still plenty of people arguing against guns but if you follow that debate, it’ll be hot for a few weeks after an incident but it’ll soon calm down until it happens again. No progress is made and soon people just start to forget about it. This constant cycle of shootings is starting to become a natural part of life, similar to the deaths from road accidents.
Blaming The Individual
One of the main arguments of the pro-gun camp is that it isn’t the weapons themselves, but the people that commit the shootings that are to blame. Of course, the people that carry out mass shootings are to blame but gun laws are making it easier for them. People don’t carry out these shootings just because they can, but if they didn’t have such easy access to weapons then the damage would be far less. Pro-gun campaigners would argue that regardless of the gun laws, these people would find a way to commit their crimes but the case of Australia suggests otherwise. It’s been 20 years since Australia banned guns and since they did, there have been no mass shootings in the country (where mass shootings are defined as an event with five or more casualties). There has also been a marked reduction in gun crime generally, as well as suicides involving firearms.
The Second Amendment
It all comes down to this, the trump card of pro-gun movement. The constitution is such an important part of American culture and it’s so easy for people to use it as a tool for justifying their stance on guns. The phrase, ‘the right to bear arms’ is always quoted in these arguments and anybody that tries to say that guns should be restricted is immediately accused of trying to curb freedom, the central aspect of American culture and ideology. When every argument against guns is drowned by cries of being un-American, it’s hard to have a proper discussion.
However, some people argue that the second amendment has been misinterpreted. The full passage reads, ‘A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.’ It does not explicitly state that every citizen has the right to own and operate a weapon. It simply says that society as a whole has a right to use weapons to protect the security of a free state. It is fairly vague about the rights of specific citizens but it does directly say that gun should be used to protect the state. As long as there is still argument about exactly how we should interpret the second amendment, there will be no change.
I wish that I could say that the Las Vegas shooting was an isolated incident that isn’t likely to happen again, but I can’t.