It Should Be So Simple: Guns in America
Issue   |   Tue, 11/07/2017 - 21:42

If you, as several members of the U.S. Congress and countless others across the country expressed, feel “surprised,” “shocked” or a similar reaction to the shooting on Sunday in Sutherland Springs, Texas, I have two words for you:

I’m a history major, but one need not be trained in statistics or probability to grasp the likelihood of a mass shooting in the U.S. in 2017. With 300 million guns circulating around the country — pistols, machine guns, shotguns, when they all kill, what difference does it make? — can anyone really express surprise that a person can kill 26 in a matter of minutes? According to the FBI, 73 percent of all homicides in the country last year involved guns.

I’ve never owned a gun, nor do I plan to acquire one. The lack of action by Congress — not to mention that gun sales increase after every mass shooting — makes it clear that this column, a sit-in on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives or Amherst’s divestment of all funds related to gun manufacturers will not change anyone’s minds.

It is clear that owning a gun “for self-defense,” as many claim, will not actually make you safer.

Think about it, I implore you: 300 million guns, and you own one, or maybe even 10. Now, picture yourself on a battlefield: 300 million people (with guns, minus the several dozen you may have stockpiled) and it seems fair to assume you are going to die.

I do not intend to be fatalistic when say that I have now accepted, in the wake of one mass shooting after another and one death-by-gun in the U.S. every fifteen minutes, that I may well die tomorrow when I walk to the CVS in town to buy a pack of bubble gum. Rather, I aim to be realistic.

I decided to go home over Fall Break and spend 48 hours with my family because of the shooting in Las Vegas. On the one hand, I knew staying on campus would mean accomplishing more work on my thesis and several papers due the following week. But when I took measure of the situation — more than 50 killed from a distance of more than four football fields — I realized that I could walk out of the library to learn I would never see one (or all) of my family members again.

For two weeks, I walked by the same piece of litter on the bike trail before finally mustering the courage to pick it up and carry it to the nearest trash receptacle. I would have done so sooner, but just going near it scared me: a red piece of cardboard labelled, “Pistol Holster: Fits M&P S&P…” Admittedly, I remain ignorant of the form and function of an “M&P S&P,” but its capacity for killing was not hard to understand. Would I discard the trash of an accouterment later used as evidence in solving a gun death? I did not want any part of it.

I do not mean to overlook the obvious tragedy of the 26 people killed in Sutherland. But again, if you are somehow surprised, get real.

If, as many politicians and millions of Americans urge time and again after such carnage, you “pray” for the victims and their families, I am surprised. I do not belittle religion, nor the value of spirituality.

As I read in a book earlier this fall — admittedly, in an attempt to understand why people might belong to a religious group — many go to a church, synagogue, mosque or any other edifice of worship out of a desire for “community.”

But to the governor of Texas, the president of this country and others who express “prayers” or constantly fall back on religion to reconcile these repeated mass shootings to which we are rapidly becoming desensitized, I am tempted to pose this challenge: If you so value the “community” your religion ostensibly brings you, SAVE IT.

It could not be simpler, it seems: take away the guns. Your church stays safe, your co-worshippers safer.

One particular death this past Sunday in Sutherland Springs stinks of the most painful irony: that of a pregnant woman. Texas not only has the second-most guns of any state, but some of the most restrictive abortion laws as well. Just last week, when the Supreme Court ruled that an undocumented immigrant had the right to — and ultimately did — receive an abortion, Texas’ attorney general lamented the “taking of an innocent life.”

If the Attorney General and his millions of pro-gun allies who are likely also “pro-lifers” really care about the loss of such “innocent lives,” the shooting in Sutherland — not to mention a pregnant woman among the casualties — offers a pretty clear example of how to save not just one but 26 “innocent lives.”

Remove the guns.

Tears, prayers, condolences, tweets, memorials — when will we learn? Why do we make something so simple so hard? Are you really “surprised” or just numb?

The one point on which I am now begrudgingly forced to agree with the current U.S. President is his pre-election claim that “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” It is sad, certainly, but if Sutherland Springs is any indication, then the president’s statement holds truth. Articles of a “troubled life” of the gunman followed the shooting almost immediately, experts pondered possibilities of “mental illness” and memorials and tributes poured out.

If I could tell myself that this is just a bad dream, I would. But this is real.

My only ounce of hope derives from a solution that still seems real as well: Get rid of the guns.