HINRICHS: To improve future, we must remember past
Opinions Column: Unveiling the Truth
The unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is cemented in our now weathered and eroded national foundation. These rights meant for all, have been stolen by the few. It is upon the government, which functions through our consent, to bolster the general welfare and domestic tranquility such that life, freedom and happiness is unadulterated by violence and crime. Except, we have allowed for our representatives to be unresponsive to the unrelenting attacks on public safety. We have exchanged our freedom for fear and our liberty for the ability to own and operate military weapons against one another.
On Sunday, Oct. 1, Stephen Paddock broke the glass window of his hotel room on the 32nd floor of a high-rise hotel overlooking the Vegas Strip and began what is now considered to be the deadliest mass shooting in modern United States history. The sounds of yelling to “get down,” “hide” and “run” were all eclipsed by the piercing sounds of gun shots ringing out in the darkness. At least 59 people were killed and over 500 injured. Paddock, with at least 23 guns in his hotel room and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, had the American access to obtain the weapons necessary to do great evil. But this was not simply an act of formless evil, but rather a defined and premeditated act by an evil man with legally-obtained firearms meant for military use, and our country is grieving once again.
The horrific scene of fear and death was described by Dinora Merino, an attendee of the concert targeted by Paddock’s rampage and survivor of his terrorist attack. Merino described the moment of realization that there was a shooter and said, “People were getting shot at while we were running, and people were on the ground bleeding, crying and screaming.”
Americans bleed, cry and scream time and time again, but the blood never soaks through to our conscience, the cries are never heard and the screams are never listened to.
In 2012, change was supposed to come. Change should have come.
“Really loud bangs … We thought that someone was knocking something over. And we heard yelling and we heard gunshots. We heard lots of gunshots.” This is how Brendan Murray, a 9-year-old fourth grader, described the Sandy Hook shooting. Adam Lanza killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on Dec. 14, 2012. The children killed were between 5 to 10 years old.
Former President Barack Obama, in the press briefing following the mass shooting, spoke of the lives left un-lived and stolen away by a young man and his guns, that “they had their entire lives ahead of them: birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own,” and ended his speech with a decisive call for “meaningful action” to stop such shootings from occurring again.
The lives of 20 children ought to have been the nation's breaking point. But it was not. And from the days that followed Sandy Hook to this past Sunday, and in the many days to come, we will feel the weight of our inactions through the senseless loss of lives.
Since Sandy Hook, there have been at least 1,518 mass shootings, with at least 1,715 people killed and 6,089 wounded.
In 2016, a little over a year ago, another “deadliest mass shooting” occurred.
"Mommy I love you … In club they shooting … He's coming … I'm gonna die … He's in the bathroom with us." These were the last messages sent by Eddie Justice to his mother before he was murdered in the Orlando Pulse Night Club mass shooting on Sunday, June 12, 2016. The gunman used a legally obtained AR-15-style assault rifle to murder 49 people and wound 53.
The reason gun control legislation has been stagnant is not because our government or our representatives believe in the validity of the Second Amendment, but rather it is because the NRA and the gun industry has influence over public policy.
Proposals for preventing gun violence are not appendages of absolutism through which the government will forcibly steal all guns and become a tyranny as depicted by the NRA.
The proposals that best fit our society, our constitution and at times majority opinion are background checks for all gun sales, a limitation on magazine size and reinstating and strengthening the ban on assault weapons.
Due to reoccurring tragedy, there is the tendency of society to become desensitized to the loss and pain. Combined with the inaction and failed attempts at progressing protections of the public safety, a rising feeling of hopelessness in breaking down the insensible status quo can grab hold of the masses.
Thus, in the wake of mass shooting tragedies, the tradition of this country is to pray and send love to those who grieve. And, this is where the problem remains unsolved and buried away only to be unveiled at a later time by an individual with a gun, restarting the cycle of tragedy and prayer. But as the New Testament in James 2:14-26 says, “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
We are all already dead in our inaction. When we have weapons of war in widespread circulation, war-like casualty counts cannot be seen as unavoidable. To speak and not act, to do nothing except pray, is to accept these mass shootings as part of the American experience, part of our cultural. We must demand leadership from our elected leaders and refuse to be silenced by the claim that a discussion on gun rights in America is politicizing the death of mass shooting victims.
In order to do to justice to those victimized by atrocities, we must never forget their experience and to never allow such tragedies to occur again.
Luke Hinrichs is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year majoring in political science and economics. His column “Unveiling the Truth“ runs on alternate Wednesdays.
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