In Orlando, a gunman carried out the largest mass shooting in U.S. history, killing 49 and wounding an additional 53 at the gay nightclub Pulse. With such an atrocity comes the normal tragic dialogue regarding how this has once again occurred, and the motivations of the perpetrator have already come into question. While the act was undoubtedly an act of hate during the height of Pride month, the deaths of these innocent club-goers have already been politicized to suggest that ISIS ties were the catalyst. Instead of acknowledging prejudice and discrimination against the LGBT community and the issues of gun control, national dialogue has focused elsewhere.
Many people have questioned why guns were sold to an unstable man such as Omar Mateen. Politicians and community leaders see this tragedy as a call to action. From Columbine to Virginia Tech, from Sandy Hook to Orlando, innocent citizens have become victims of gun violence with little to no policy changes made to prevent such violence in the future. The time to take a stance is not tomorrow, but today. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C. took a stance on Monday, asking Paul Ryan when debate about new gun policy would occur. As the congressman drew attention to the one year anniversary of the Charleston shooting approaching this Friday, House Speaker Ryan promptly dismissed the call for gun reform and moved on.
Shortly after the San Bernadino shooting, when Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) proposed another bill requiring background checks and a mandatory waiting period, it was shot down 50 to 48. As Democrats continued to push for the immediate passage of a bill preventing people on terror watch lists from buying firearms or explosives, Republicans argued that the government could mistakenly place innocent people on the watch list and thus mistakenly deprive them of their Second Amendment rights.
Dismissing problems and moving on without resolution is far too common in today?’s political climate, especially in regards to violent gun crimes. The leniency of the U.S gun control system has allowed for massacres such as these to occur unchecked.
Comprehensive background checks are a necessity. Far too many individuals bypass background checks and rarely renew gun licenses, as Mateen purchased his weapons with an expired gun registration and was on the FBI list of suspected terrorists. Florida is specifically known to have very relaxed gun control policies. The Brady Campaign, a prominent gun control group, gave 26 states including Florida an F rating in 2013. Assault weapons, such as the one used by Mateen to carry out the Orlando attacks, are legal for any citizen to purchase who can pass the background check.
Guns can change lives in a matter of seconds. These items should be treated as weapons and not toys. Roughly 16,272 murders were committed in the United States as of 2008. Of these murders, about 10,886 or 67% were committed using firearms. While guns won?t stop murderers, or prevent disturbed individuals from executing acts of terror, we have the power to slow their course and reach.
No person thinks they will fall victim to an act of gun violence. While walking across campus at Virginia Tech, no student expected to be gunned down and murdered. No Sandy Hook Elementary School parent expected to drop their child off for class only to never see them again. No one expects the terror and effects of gun violence will touch them. Yet attacks could happen anywhere, any place, anytime and we allow for it.
Close to 33,000 Americans were victims of gun-related deaths in 2011 and an average of 268 citizens are shot every day. By focusing efforts to reform and combat the current system, we can prevent future attacks and save lives. While we may never be able to bring back those lost in brutal attacks, we can rise to the occasion, bettering society in their memory so no child, parent, or friend has to go through the pain and grief of losing a loved one through gun violence.
As our government once again failed to act for the safety of its people by passing significant gun reform legislation, innocent lives once again paid for their negligence. This time it was the 49 dead and 53 wounded who were celebrating Pride at a nightclub in Orlando. Unless our government acts now the question is, who will be next?
Reprinted with the permission of the National Jewish Democratic Counsel