Fourteen people were killed and another fourteen were injured while attending a company holiday party in San Bernardino, California on Wednesday. It was the deadliest mass shooting in the United States since the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School three years ago, according to the Washington Post.
There are a number of things about this shooting, and all the others, that disappoint me; but what I find most disturbing is that we’ve become desensitized to these incidents.
As an American citizen, I no longer feel shock when I hear news of mass shootings and murder. They’ve become commonplace. I used to think of myself as a very patriotic person, but it’s becoming harder and harder to be proud of this nation. I doubt that I’m alone.
The shooting in San Bernardino was the 355th mass shooting since the start of 2015 (that’s just 336 days). These shootings have left 462 people dead and 1,314 injured, according to the New York Times. Americans are dying left and right at the hands of other Americans and it seems like no one cares.
The Paris attacks got quite a bit of attention from civilians as well as from the media, and rightfully so. But why is an attack by ISIS across the Atlantic more shocking or important to the American population than the mass shootings that happen here nearly every day, committed by American people against American people?
Something needs to be done. Like President Obama said, our “prayers” aren’t going to fix anything. While the good will sent to Paris from around the world was a kind gesture, I hope people realize that a hashtag (#prayforparis) is essentially useless. Your social media posts won’t affect any real world change.
I can’t bear to hear the argument “guns don’t kill people”anymore. Guns do kill people. Limited access to guns would make killing people en masse in minutes much more difficult. Needing a gun to protect yourself from other people with guns is complete nonsense; it’s a circular argument.
“America’s gun control laws are the loosest in the developed world and its rate of gun-related homicide is the highest,” according to the Atlantic. That should embarrass us.
Let’s look to countries on the opposite spectrum of gun control for inspiration.
In Japan, for example, almost no one owns a gun. Sportsmen may acquire a gun after going through a lengthy licensing procedure. A potential gun owner must attend classes and pass written and shooting tests, undergo a background check, pass a mental health test and prove that they aren’t addicted to drugs or alcohol. Gun owners must store their guns in a locker, keep ammunition in a separate locker and provide local law enforcement with a map of their home or apartment indicating where the locker is located.
What does this mean for Japan’s homicides by guns? They’re nearly nonexistent. In 2008, 11 gun-related deaths occurred in Japan–compared to 587 in the U.S. But this has just as much to do with Japanese culture and constitution as gun control laws.
Our constitution gives us the right to bear arms. Japan’s constitution states, “no person shall posses a firearm or a sword,” with very few exceptions. In contrast to the second amendment of the U.S. constitution, this excerpt from Japan’s was written in 1958.
Let’s recall that the second amendment was written over 224 years ago–a time when firearms were a whole lot different (and a lot less fatal). If the founding fathers witnessed the massacres that have been happening so often this year, I’d be willing to bet they wouldn’t have put their names on that amendment.
Americans take their rights very seriously, and we should. But that’s the root of the problem. We need to think about these issues from the bottom up. Just because it’s written in the constitution, does that mean it’s right? Not necessarily. As young people, we have the power to change the future. We need to question the political moves that Americans have made in the past.
The U.S. probably won’t reach Japan’s levels of gun control, but it’s useful to look to other countries and examine their statistics of gun ownership to gun-related deaths. Even countries with far more moderate gun laws than Japan experience significantly lower rates of gun-related homicide than the United States.
We need to educate ourselves on these issues and take a stand. So pay attention and invest in what’s happening to Americans across the country every day. Urge those in power to make a change. Save lives. Raise your voice, and drown out the gunfire.