By Andrew Tyrrell, Editor-in-Chief
I am grateful that each one of these gets harder. Each time there’s a mass shooting, it gets harder, at least for me, to shrug it off, to believe that this is the world, the country, that I live in. The first article I ever wrote as a paid writer for the Torch was about the murder of Alison Parker and Adam Ward on live TV in Virginia back in 2015. That one was horrible. It happened on live television. About a year later, Omar Mateen killed 49 people at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando and wounded 58 others. I spent that morning in tears. Then there was Vegas a few months ago, and I was speechless, which doesn’t often happen. I remember Sandy Hook. Adam Lanza killed 28 people that day, 20 of them children. I was on vacation with my family in nearby South Carolina when the Virginia Tech shooting happened. I had just turned six years old when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado and killed 12 students and a teacher.
That’s not even to mention San Bernardino or Dylann Roof, or when Aaron Alexis murdered 12 people and injured three others at the Washington Navy Yard in 2013.
That’s alarming, isn’t it? That there have been so many mass shootings that it’s becoming difficult to recall the major ones that have happened in our lifetimes. Even more alarming that we now have to differentiate between major mass shootings and regular ones. Shouldn’t all mass shootings be major?
The country we live in is becoming terrifying. According to the Gun Violence Archive, as of February 14, there have been 30 mass shootings in America, including the one in Parkland, Florida that happened hours before I began writing this article. In 2017 the GVA recorded 346 mass shootings.
Sit with that number for a minute. Three hundred and forty-six. 590 people were killed and 1,981 were injured in those shootings. 594 of those injuries came in the month of October. The GVA deemed 2017 as the deadliest year in modern American history.
Let’s look at some more numbers, because the pestilence is not confined to mass shootings. In 2017 there were 61,497 incidents involving firearms in the United States. Of those incidents 15,590 were killed, and 31,181 were injured. 317 officers were killed in the line of duty, and 2078 people were killed by police officers. 2523 home invasions were carried out with firearms, and firearms were used defensively in 2040 cases (though whether or not this had a positive or negative impact is not stated). 2020 people were involved in unintentional shootings. 3234 people between the ages of 12 and 17 were killed by firearms in 2017, and 732 children aged 0-11 years were injured or killed by firearms.
Not included in the GVA statistics listed above: the 22,000 suicides by gun that are carried out per year on average.
This has become the new normal. It should not be. While the debate about which gun control legislation is the most effective can and should rage on, there seems to be one fact that is staring everyone in the face: gun control could help prevent this. Maybe not stop it entirely, but these numbers could be lower. They should be lower. 732 children were killed or injured by firearms last year. Seven hundred and thirty-two. Seven hundred. And thirty-two. One child killed or injured by a firearm is one too many. But 732? What are we even doing anymore?
At what point did we as a society decide that the right to bear arms was more important than the lives of the 15,590 lives lost to gun related crimes. What about the 22,000 suicides that could have been prevented by requiring psychological evaluations of would-be gun owners? Is unfettered access to firearms really that god damn important?
The Bill of Rights laid out 10 inalienable rights that all Americans have; there is one that does not appear in the Bill of Rights, but does appear in the Declaration of Independence, and that is life. We all have the right to live. The pernicious proliferation of firearms in this country threatens that most inalienable of rights.
The right to keep and bear arms is not, was never, and never will be more important than the lives lost to gun violence. And it sure as shit isn’t more important than the lives that may be saved from responsible, reasonable gun control legislation.
People walk around in this country as if there’s nothing that can be done to prevent things like this from happening. But there is. This doesn’t have to be our existence. We shouldn’t have to worry about our children or younger siblings heading off to school because it may be the day a peer snaps and takes their father’s gun into school and starts murdering indiscriminately. Americans shouldn’t be afraid to go out to movie theaters because another maniac might stand up during the premier of a long awaited film and open fire.
We shouldn’t be concerned about attending music festivals because a “lone wolf” with a high powered rifle feels like he found his perfect shooting gallery. This isn’t normal, this isn’t okay. And Congress isn’t doing anything. Why? Because of lobbyists. It really is as simple as that. According to Open Secrets, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that tracks political donations, in the 2016 election cycle the NRA gave $834,165 to candidates. That’s just the NRA, and that’s just at the federal level, and that’s not counting ad campaigns they ran, which total around $50 million. Florida Senator Marco Rubio said shortly after the shooting in Parkland, Florida that he was unsure any piece of legislation could’ve helped.
He’s received over $3.3 million in funding and support from the NRA since he was elected to the United States Senate.
I want to make one thing abundantly clear, before this article wraps up: this isn’t a call for a ban on firearms or to take them away from everyone. Just, we can do more to prevent firearms from getting into the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.
There have been 30 mass shootings this year. At the time of writing this, that makes 30 days with mass shootings and 17 without.
That’s almost twice as many days with mass shootings as without. Nikolas Cruz walked into his high school in Parkland, Florida and killed 17 people. He’s 19. His guns were purchased legally.
The 17 dead were Alyssa Alhadeff, 14, Scott Beigel, 35, Martin Duque Anguiano, 14, Nicholas Dworet, 17, Aaron Feis, 37, Jaime Guttenberg, 14, Chris Hixon, 49, Luke Hoyer, 15, Cara Loughran, 14, Gina Montalto, 14, Joaquin Oliver, 17, Alaina Petty, 14, Meadow Pollack, 18, Helena Ramsay, 17, Alex Schachter, 14, Carmen Schentrup, 16, and Peter Wang, 15.
Enough.Enough. Enough.Enough. Enough.Enough. Enough.Enough. Enough.Enough. Enough.Enough. Enough.Enough. Enough.Enough. Enough.