Art By Madeline Duvall
After the incidents on March 22 in Boulder, Colo., and March 16 in Atlanta, gun violence continues the plague the minds of everyday, American citizens. While the Graphic continues to learn and hear varying opinions about gun regulations and the Second Amendment, we do know that the loss of human life in this horrific way is unacceptable.
It’s time to hold our political officials responsible for finding a solution to this problem of gun violence. No matter against or for gun laws someone may be, everyone can agree with preserving the safety of life.
Over the past 10 years, there have been 245 mass shootings in the United States, which resulted in 1,391 fatalities, according to Every Town Research. Since 2009, 132 people died in 24 mass shootings. Moreover, since 2013, 622 incidents of gunfire at schools resulted in 220 deaths nationally. Those are just some of the few frightening statistics of gun violence.
Politicians and citizens alike need to commit to talking about guns in a productive way to ensure change happens in legislation. This means acknowledging the gun violence in the United States, disputing the myths about why it happens, and approaching our government officials to enact bipartisan change.
Recent Gun Violence in America
Gun violence is all around us, continuing to be a prominent problem and fear for many Americans trying to live everyday lives. With shootings occurring in grocery stores, movie theaters, concerts, bars and even schools, it’s hard to definitively point to one place that we are safe.
On March 22, a gunman horrifically killed 10 people in a grocery store in Boulder Co., with a rifle. Witnesses said the gunman came into the grocery store and started shooting. A grandfather receiving his COVID-19 vaccine hid with his two teenage grandchildren in a coat closet before police rescued him.
A man in Atlanta, Ga. went to three spas March 16, killing eight innocent people. Furthermore, six of the individuals were Asian women. Not only was this gun violence, the use of a firearm perpetrated a hate crime against the Asian community.
Both shooters were only 21 years old — bringing even more concern to why gun violence is occurring among young adults. How are young people becoming so desensitized to be able to kill innocent people in such horrific ways? What can be done to stop this from happening?
The House approved two bills in March aimed at expanding and strengthening background checks for gun buyers, according to an article in The New York Times. However, it is unlikely the two bills will pass in the Senate, as gun reform has failed in the Senate more than enough times.
On March 23, President Joe Biden called for a ban on assault rifles. Americans may be left unsure if any legislative action will be taken at all since none of the gun control proposals Biden pushed after the 2012 reelection during his time as vice president passed.
Notably, the president’s current proposals regarding gun violence on his website are similar to the reforms he proposed as vice president — such as universal background checks and banning assault weapons. If Biden’s proposals didn’t pass back then, how will this legislation advance in 2021, especially since the Republican stance on gun control is as strong as ever?
During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing March 23, Republicans argued for “narrowly tailored changes to existing laws to keep firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill or criminals and bolstering penalties for government agencies that fail to report to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System,” according to an article in Bloomberg.
On this opposite side of the coin, Gun control doesn’t stop the malpractices of guns but instead causes others to lose the protection a gun can provide.
During the Senate judiciary meeting, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz stood against universal background checks and an assault rifle ban, pushing his own agenda of increased funding to police forces in his legislation.
Whatever the problem may be — the guns, the shooters, or both — there needs to be an effort from both political parties to come up with new legislation that will actually pass in the House and the Senate in response to gun violence. Saving lives needs to be the ultimate goal, which will be achieved through compromise, so lives are saved, not lost, and our leaders need to act fast.
The Myth of Mental Health and Mass Shootings
For many, when they think of the cause of gun violence, they think of someone disconnected from society and facing mental illness. In actuality, that couldn’t be any further from the truth.
Those diagnosed with mental illness are actually more likely to be on the receiving end of violence than the actual perpetrators of violence, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. For instance, individuals who experience schizophrenia — which many accredit as the primary mental illness that adds to gun violence — face 65% to 130% higher police victimization rates compared to the general public, according to the same source.
This means the actual harm is done by those we would label as the general populous who are abusing either their authoritative power and/or their Second Amendment right. For example, after Missouri repealed its gun background checks, there was an increase of 55 to 63 gun homicides per year.
The real problems and causes of gun violence aren’t that guns are in the hands of the mentally ill or that guns are legal; it’s the ability to gain a gun at emotionally unstable times.
Childhood abuse, drug abuse, alcohol abuse and the ability to access a firearm during an emotionally overcharged moment all increase the rates of gun-violence by seven-fold, as explained by the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
For many, gun-violence is a black and white issue, but this is untrue. Individuals have moments and gain access to tools that increase the effects and repercussions of their bad decisions and outbursts.
As politicians and society look for a solution. Blaming it on those experiencing mental illness doesn’t solve the problem it only creates more harm to another group of people and allows the original problem to fester.
Standing in Solidarity
The Graphic stands in solidarity to hold politicians accountable — we demand change from our leaders — to save American lives. The misuse of firearms causes immense grief and loss of life that we cannot ignore as we need our leaders to compromise to enact significant, impactful change.
The Graphic staff has a responsibility as journalists to cover gun violence and have ethical principles, such as not naming the shooter. Since the Borderline shooting, the Graphic decided and continues to place emphasis on remembering the victims over the wrongdoing of the perpetrator. This shows that the real point of contention and importance isn’t about the gunman or some long-standing debate about the Second Amendments but about American lives that are affected by the nation’s indecisiveness and neglect.
What the Graphic can — and always will — do is report and comment on events involving gun violence accurately. Furthermore, we will continue to create unbiased dialogue by creating a middle ground that is bipartisan. This includes mentioning as many points of view on issues as possible while also being accurate in its description.
However, the fact of the matter is that we, as a community, as a nation and as people need to confront the harms brought by the use of guns through open dialogue and contend with them as a unified front.
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