There is so much information pouring in about the Las Vegas shooting. I'm having a really difficult time processing, sifting through everything, or making sense of any of it. I think we all are.
Yesterday I walked to the grocery store to meet Luke after he finished work. I listened to the NPR Politics Podcast that covered the shooting while I was walking over. When we got in the car after we had purchased the groceries for the rest of the week, the first thing I said to him was, "Luke, I'm really angry." That's the overwhelming emotion I feel after hearing news of yet another mass shooting on US soil, the biggest one in modern history, coming just over a year after the previous biggest one in modern history.
I'm heartbroken that more people lost their lives to gun violence like this. I'm terrified that there isn't anywhere safe left in this world. It doesn't matter if you're at school--whether that be elementary school to college--it doesn't matter if you're out at a club, at a concert, at the cinema, you could lose your life in an instant.
I believe in God and I believe in the power of prayer. I know the victims, the families, the communities need prayer and support and comfort. But that isn't enough.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who speaks on behalf of the White House in her roll as Press Secretary, said “there will certainly be a time for that policy discussion to take place, but that’s not the place that we’re in at this moment.” This sentiment was echoed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell--among others, who said, "I think it’s particularly inappropriate to politicize an event like this, it just happened in the last day-and-a-half. It’s entirely premature to be discussing legislative solutions, if any."
What is the right time then? Because it's too late for the victims of Columbine. It's too late for the victims of Virginia Tech. It's too late for the victims of Aurora It's too late for the victims of Sandy Hook. It's too late for the victims of Orlando It's too late for the victims of the 521 mass shootings that took place in the 477 days between Orlando and Las Vegas. And it's too late for the victims of Las Vegas. It's too late for those men, women, and children who died in a matter of seconds when a man fired a semi-automatic or automatic weapon at their school or workplace or during their night out, a place they thought they were safe. A mother who lost her daughter at Sandy Hook tweeted yesterday, "There is no such thing as being in the wrong place at the wrong time when a 6 year old gets shot."
We're the only country in the world who has this problem. And the response from Congress is always the same: Let's not talk about it today. Guns aren't the problem. Laws won't fix anything.
In the aftermath, everyone is so quick to point fingers and find someone to blame, but heaven forbid anyone point to guns as the problem. Guns are the problem. There is no reason a human being needs a semi-automatic or an automatic rifle. That gun exists for the sole purpose of taking human lives en masse. As someone who isn't a gun owner, I respect the right to own a gun, but there has to be stricter regulations in the gun industry. It is not a slippery slope to knocking down your door and taking away all of your guns. That's not the solution most Americans are looking for by any stretch of the imagination. But it's cowardly and senseless to say there is no middle ground. That nothing can be done.
When I was looking for information about the shooting this morning, I scrolled passed an article titled "These Tips Could Improve Your Chances of Surviving a Mass Shooting". HOW IS THIS THE WORLD WE'VE BUILT FOR OURSELVES?! Why do we have to live in fear of being the next victim? Why do we have to map out our escape route and make an emergency plan everywhere we go? Why do we continue to accept politicians who say that we need to protect ourselves and make our own change instead of them doing something because their hands are tied? “People are going to have to take steps in their own lives to take precautions to protect themselves," said Senator John Thune of South Dakota. “Sadly, violence will always be part of our lives,” said Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. Why have we accepted this as our reality?
Did you know that earlier this year "Republicans rescinded an Obama administration regulation that had made it tougher for the mentally ill to get a gun. They claimed the rule, put into place after the 2012 mass shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, unfairly impeded the Second Amendment rights of people with disabilities." (Huffington Post) Did you know that this week in Congress, there has been talk of voting to make silencers easier to buy? "Supporters say the bill is about protecting recreational gun users from hearing loss." (Time)
Did you know that every member of Congress who has received campaign money from the NRA tweeted their "thoughts and prayers" for the victims of Las Vegas? (Splinter News) I'll say it again. Yes, those who have been impacted by this and other tragedies like this need our prayers. But they need more. "To my colleagues: your cowardice to act cannot be whitewashed by thoughts and prayers. None of this ends unless we do something to stop it." - Chris Murphy, US Senator, Connecticut (Find out here if your Congressperson has taken money from the NRA. My Representative, Ken Buck, has taken $7,950 and one of my Senators, Cory Gardner, has taken $5,950.)
The second thing I said to Luke when we got in the car is, "I feel so helpless." Being abroad, I can't call my representatives. Though, I told Luke I can tweet them and he said that may be the most powerful form of communication in American Politics today. But truly, I don't know what I can do from the other side of the world. I just know I want to do something. I want my voice heard by those who have been elected to represent me. If they continue to stand idly by pretending their hands are tied because they have chained themselves to the NRA, I'll work hard to elect someone else in 2018 and 2020 who will actually do something about this problem.
Americans are stuck in this cycle. There's a mass shooting. Everyone starts talking about gun control, where we go from here, what can or cannot be done. A few days go by and people move on. Sure enough, after some time, there's another mass shooting making headlines and we're back to offering our thoughts and prayers for a few days until we forget about it again. We have to work together to break that cycle. We have to come together as Americans--as human beings--to make a change. It's not a Republican/Democrat issue, it's a human issue. And it's not too soon to be talking about legislative action. It's too late for those who have already lost their lives or continue to live with the horror of the mass shooting they survived. It's not politicizing a national tragedy. It's accepting the reality that real change needs to start in DC.
Now is the time to talk about it before we all become victims in some way or another. Now is the time to make change before our names become a part of this ongoing tragedy.
I'm 27 years old. I remember the day of the Columbine shooting. I was 8 years old and lived about an hour away. I remember sitting in the kitchen and watching the memorial services for the victims, not fully able to comprehend what happened. I remember the day of the Virginia Tech shooting. I was 16 years old, a junior in high school and we were talking about it during passing period. I remember the day of the Aurora shooting. I was 21 at the time and lived an hour away, suddenly terrified to see the final chapter in the Dark Knight trilogy. I remember hearing stories of people I knew who were at that theater or supposed to be. People I knew! I remember a few months later when I heard about Sandy Hook. It had only been 5 months since Aurora. I was at a work conference in Denver and couldn't focus on anything after I saw the news. I have never been more sick to my stomach in my life and I will never forget that feeling. Honestly, by the time Orlando happened last year, I felt so desensitized to the news of more gun violence. It was just as awful as the others and actually Orlando was the first place where I ever went to a club, back in 2010. But I just didn't have the mental capacity to process it anymore. I'm only 27 years old and I have too many memories of hearing about horrible mass shootings, two of which took place far too close to home.
I'm done being desensitized. When we're desensitized, we do nothing. We buy into the lie that nothing can be done and we have to accept this new reality for the rest of our lives. Yes, now is the time to pray, but now is the time to act.