(EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece was originally published in June of 2016 following the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. However, seeing as how mass shootings are still a regular, on-going occurrence in the U.S., the questions it asks remain relevant, so we plan on re-sharing it regularly.)
Another gun-related tragedy in the United States. This one seems to tick a lot of the boxes for mass violence on home soil:
- Terrorist act? Check.
- Hate crime? Check.
- Semi-automatic rifle? Check.
- “Thoughts and prayers” issued by policy makers who remain completely inactive on the issue of guns, even failing to vote for the most rudimentary of background checks? You see where this is headed.
- Anti-gun outrage, which gun supporters refer to as “politicizing,” while willfully ignoring the fact that most drastic changes in the history of our nation have typically been borne out of crisis? That’s a mass shooting bingo!
Please don’t confuse our callousness, this tone comes from a place of anguish.
In times like these, it’s tempting to publish stories about mass shootings in other countries, or charts of mass shootings per capita around the world. Those charts and statistics strongly support the “guns are the whole problem” narrative. But they’re all too easy for pro-gun supporters to argue against. Why? Because when it comes to issues of gun violence, the United States is incomparable. Our mix of social, societal, historical, and cultural variables has no analogue. We’re “us” and that’s the end of it.
Not only can we not compare ourselves to others, but it’s also difficult to isolate any of the human elements in this mix. Those who are willfully ignorant of the complex web of factors — which have been woven together since the founding of our country to create our current gun-violence epidemic — use statistics-out-of-context to assign gun violence blame by ethnicity. Which is wrong (and racist), because numbers do sometimes lie and they often fail at being neutral.
To be progressive, we have to be willing to admit the following: Gun violence is part of a complex combination of factors (social, societal, historical, cultural) that are ingrained into the very fabric of our nation from its founding days — making it tough to find fitting comparisons or isolate variables.
No matter how blatantly obvious it looks on paper: