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Mass Shootings in America: Inherently Political

Every time there’s devastation that resonates nationally as a result of something completely preventable [through changes in law, policy, and rhetoric], we immediately hear people say: “Don’t politicize the deaths and trauma of innocent people.”

The latest — and largest — mass shooting in American history, which took place at a country music concert in Las Vegas, is no different, with even the White House saying that it’s too soon to talk about gun control and policy.

Forget that. It is political. We don’t have to politicize it – it’s done.

We saw those babies at Sandy Hook die and our nation is so full of cowards that we wouldn’t stand up and demand gun control even then. Our nation is so full of fools that people would rather come up with conspiracy theories than address the unnecessary loss of the most innocent lives. Our nation is full of people who hold on to flawed ideas, and ideals, and love them more than they love people.

We have constitutional scholars from coast to coast and we pretend that this is about the [mis]interpretation of the 2nd Amendment. We pretend that we don’t know that this is not what was intended by those who wrote and ratified that amendment, back in the days of muskets. Private citizens having access to weapons that can kill hundreds of people in mere minutes and mass shootings every two months was not something that the Founding Fathers could have envisioned.

We now know that Stephen Paddock, the shooter who killed 58 people and injured over 500 (numbers that will continue to rise), had a stockpile of weapons in his hotel room. Store owners who sold Paddock some of his weapons said that they followed all local and federal laws. Paddock had no criminal history, so anything available for legal purchase would have been available to them.

Stephen’s brother Eric, speaking in television interviews on behalf of his bewildered family, offered no explanations or excuses for his brothers’ massacre, but made one request: “Find out who he bought the machine guns from.”

A little over a year ago, in June of 2016, in the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando (which was until last night the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history), I wrote: “How many times will we allow the same scenario to play out before we — as a nation, as human beings — demand change? How long will we allow rich lobbyists to control our lives? I must admit — I do not have much hope that this will spur change. We watched as our children were killed in Newtown and went back to the same complacency. If our babies being slaughtered in their classrooms doesn’t move us to action, what will?”

A year ago I wondered if we needed to hear more about how these shootings really affect people. And while I still firmly believe that people really don’t get that, I’m not convinced that what the media effectively turns into trauma porn will really make much of a difference. We see so much gun related violence everyday, yet we aren’t moved to change a culture that glorifies and excuses violence at every turn.

What I do know is that all of these incidents feel too far away to those who aren’t directly affected. Even the knowledge that it could be any of us or our family next isn’t even enough to move us, collectively, to change.

Ironically, two years ago, on this very day, I was talking about gun violence on social media. The saddest part is that when I saw the words pop up in my Facebook memories today, I wasn’t even sure which tragedy I was referring to then.

The Vegas shooting did cause at least one person to reconsider their stance on gun control. According to The Guardian, Caleb Keeter, the lead guitarist of the Josh Abbot band which was caught in the violence, posted a statement “describing the deadliest shooting in modern US history as a revelation.”

He said that members of the band’s crew have concealed handgun licenses, and legal firearms on the bus, but that, “They were useless. We couldn’t touch them for fear police might think that we were part of the massacre and shoot us. A small group (or one man) laid waste to a city with dedicated, fearless police officers desperately trying to help, because of access to an insane amount of firepower. Enough is enough.”

America’s obsession with guns is about more than a love for guns. It’s about a deliberately cultivated image of what being an American means. Flags, guns, and Bibles are indeed very personal for millions of people, but not by chance. This isn’t just racism and xenophobia thinly veiled by talk of patriotism, protecting family, and citizen’s rights. America’s obsession with guns is manufactured by the NRA, political lobbyists, and politicians who stand to make ridiculous amounts of money by selling as many guns and as much ammunition as possible. As with most things that have become political , flawed and unfounded arguments are used to hype the masses into supporting laws they don’t understand and ideas that lack proof. All for the benefit of the wealthy and powerful.

Don’t talk to me about not politicizing this when politics is the reason this continues to happen. This is political, and fault lies with people at every point on the political spectrum. Those who continue to support this foolishness and those who refuse to be resolute in fighting those people.

It’s true — stricter gun laws won’t stop every killer, especially with the number of guns already on the streets. But it will help. No law stops every criminal. But we average a mass shooting every two months. This is not happening anywhere else in the world. We need to change our laws and we need to change our culture.