Again, deeply chilling mass shootings scattered across the country have captured national attention. What would have once been shocking, is now an unimaginable return to normalcy.
All gun violence is uniquely horrifying in the United States. From accidents, to suicides, and all types of violent crime, our nation has an incredibly high number of gun deaths. In 2019, guns became the leading cause of death for American children and adolescents, higher than overdoses and car accidents. Everyone is affected, and those running for State and Federal seats must answer. A major reason the Uvalde Massacre is so unbearably jarring and enraging is because it eviscerates decades of assurances. Decades of investment in “professional” security planning and drills, and rhetoric all predicated on the repeated promise that “the ‘good guys’ are coming, fast,” is under scrutiny. As the specific failings in Texas unravel, the reality is we have already damned a generation to gun violence.
Ignore the tired lip service on mental health from the same people refusing to properly fund it. Every country has ill people, every country has dangerous people. Ignore the performative conversations on hardening security, or individual heroism. Most people aren’t heroes. Evidence repeatedly demonstrates easy access to guns increases violence, including mass shootings, while FBI reporting shows a minute percentage of active shootings are successfully stopped by armed civilians. There are more guns than people in America and fortifying all corners of public life will not save us. We cannot militarize every public space, nor should we try. That path leads to an unfree America, terrified and oppressed. No individual school, city, or even state, has enough power to reverse our epidemic of violence-empowering weapons. We have done this too long. The exhausted cycle of misdirections and lies must end.
“Weapons of war have no place where we shop, eat, learn and pray,” said CeaseFire PA Executive Director Adam Garber earlier this month. “That simple fact has been painfully obvious in the last few weeks in Buffalo and Uvalde. Now, it’s time for our elected officials to take action to stop our communities from being war zones by banning assault weapons.”
Gun violence is now one of the greatest threats to American freedoms. The tired lines from the Weapons Industry are blatant lies designed to deflect – a reductive debate over security tactics, individual bravado, and early warnings will distract us away from real solutions that may threaten their profits. Their bet is that we are too dumb to remember, or too callous to care. They are wrong. A few weeks ago, community advocates, leaders, and lawmakers spoke in Bucks County reacting to these violent outbreaks.
“Military-style weapons have no place in civilian society,” said PA State Senator Steve Santarsiero (D-10). “Easy access to assault weapons is one of the greatest threats to the health and safety of Pennsylvanians.”
There are a multitude of other popular ways to reduce the ease by which violent people obtain firearms. Strong “red flag” laws, age limits, background checks and waiting periods, as well as requirements for safe storage will reduce deaths by suicide and violent crime, even if not preventing every mass shooting. Gun ownership should be a major social responsibility, and carry legal penalties for reckless possession. But even with this accomplished, a wider catalyst remains: there are too many guns in America. Aside from illegal weapons and increasingly sophisticated “ghost guns” which evade detection, tracing, and background checks, there are an estimated 400 million civilian-held firearms in the United States. That is 120 guns per 100 people, with 4 in 10 reporting a gun in their household. This is entirely unique to this nation, and, more importantly, incredibly recent to our history.
Only at the twilight of the 21st Century did interpretations of the Second Amendment come to apply so extensively to individuals. For most of American history, gun possession, like every freedom, had reasonable limitations. This problem has nothing to do with the Constitution, but instead with industry and political elites profiting on fear and death. Worse, a highly armed political fringe prepared to violently seize political power. There are many gun owners who claim to be protecting against tyranny. They are not. Our legal and democratic system does that, to the extent we allow it. Many of these accumulated arsenals are not to protect the Constitution, they are to own it. This minority of gun owners are accepting carnage to cling to an expensive hobby that lets them play soldier and fetishize violent power fantasies. They are willing to cost the rest of society their freedoms, safety, and lives, or worse, they are committed to violently enforcing their will over other Americans. Core to the American gun obsession is privileged political power. If this fringe feels that democracy is not working for them, then they have force. Wittingly or not, they are the tyrants.