If you think there’s a kind of cruel cycle playing out in America right now, you’re not alone. It starts with a horrific, mass shooting. People call for better gun control. Nothing happens. Another mass shooting happens. And the cycle repeats itself, causing the loss of more innocent lives at the hands of someone who was too easily able to access a deadly weapon.
This week’s mass shooting in Las Vegas, which saw 59 people dead and over 500 injured, was the worst in American history. In June 2016, 49 people were killed in the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando. In December 2012, 28 children and adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut.
After mass shootings, satire site The Onion publishes the same article with the same headline: “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Happens Regularly.” Although they change the details and location of the story, it’s the same every time—because after every mass shooting, a conversation ensues about the need for better gun control laws but little, if anything, ends up happening.
Barack Obama spoke passionately about the need for gun control, especially in the wake of Sandy Hook. But he had to use executive action to make progress because of the Republican congress. Barely a week after Donald Trump’s Inauguration, his new administration was already revoking certain gun control policies set out by Obama.
It’s unthinkable, really, that after young children were shot and killed, legislation making it harder to purchase guns still couldn’t pass. Even in addition to the terrible mass shootings, there are examples of gun violence every day in America. Mass shootings (defined as an incident in which four or more people are killed, which can include the shooter) average out to more than one every day in America.
In the wake of the Las Vegas massacre, Vox published an article containing 17 infographics that paint an eye-opening picture of America’s problem with guns. Two infographics tell an important story: that the states that have more guns have more deaths caused by guns; and that the states that have tighter laws around gun-control have less deaths caused by guns.
Want more proof that gun control works? Check out the example set by Australia—the government banned automatic and semiautomatic firearms after a shooting where 35 people were killed in 1996. Australia hasn’t had a mass shooting since (again, a mass shooting is defined as an incident where four or more die). To summarize: if laws make it harder for people to get guns, then there are less guns out there and less people die from guns. It’s not that complicated, except some people make it out to be.
Some say that the debate around gun control is a debate around the second amendment; the right to bear arms. But at its core, the debate around gun control is a debate about people’s lives—the tragic events in Las Vegas, along with all of the other examples in American history, are proof of this. When people attending a concert, enjoying a night out with friends or going to school are targeted, injured and killed, gun control is a question of life or death.
I’m 19 and there have been far too many mass shootings in my time on this Earth. I’m not American, but I don’t want young people in the U.S. to grow up in a place where they have to be fearful for their safety. I’ve had discussions with friends where we talk about the fact that, because of shootings in public places, we’re always conscious of checking emergency exits in crowded areas. It’s good to be vigilant, of course, but I don’t think anyone should have to be concerned about something like gun violence when there are legitimate options on the table to reduce its prevalence.
In the days since the Vegas shooting, there have been conversations about gun control. Jimmy Kimmel made a tearful plea for action; social media has been awash with people fed up with the lack of anti-gun legislation. We need to leverage the sadness, anger and frustration we feel after the senseless violence in Las Vegas, and we need to demand action and accountability from America’s elected leaders. Thoughts and prayers are wonderful, but they are not enough when people are dying and it is in the power of the American government to prevent their deaths.