Fighting against “the new normal” of mass shootings

Joseph Langan

Across the country, students lead classroom walkouts and protests in solidarity with gun victims. Survivors of the recent Florida massacre formed a coalition to fight against the “new normal” of mass shootings. These students call themselves Never Again MSD and they are working to establish a new normal where politicians who accept money from the NRA are ridiculed.

Many of these activists are not even legal adults, and yet they’ve already met with the president and public leaders, loudly voicing the need for common sense gun reform.

What is this “new normal?” In 1999, Columbine was considered a wake-up call by many educators, but we haven’t woken up.

Nothing comprehensive has changed in the policy arena, and gun-related massacres are worsening. In just the last two years, 49 people were killed in a nightclub in Orlando, while 58 people attending a concert in Las Vegas were also fatally shot.

With no congressional leadership, students are taking matters into their own hands. And what choice do they have? After most mass shootings, overwhelming public opinion lies on the side of gun reform, the NRA lobbies Congress and then nothing happens. Again and again, the pattern is the same.

The U.S. is alone in this issue, so isolated by its cultural proliferation of violence that the only question remaining is whether this “normal” is even new.

From the nearly genocidal campaign colonialists waged against indigenous Native Americans to the decades of contemporary warfare in the Middle East, the U.S. has been at war for over 90 percent of its 241-year existence.

Students graduating high school this year have never lived outside the shadow of spectacle and tragedy, where every few months news coverage is saturated by the next mass shooting in a series of continuing catastrophes.

Why could this be? Could it have anything to do with there being more guns than people in this country? In 2013, there were 40 million more guns than Americans, not even counting illegal gun ownership.

The U.S. makes up less than five percent of the world’s population, but holds over 30 percent of the world’s mass shooters. Gun related homicides are 25 times higher in America than other wealthy nations.

This “new normal” is depraved and weak. We are a weak nation if we continue to allow mass shootings to routinely occur.

Massacres in the U.K., Canada and Australia have mobilized politicians to fix these problems. After a shooting that left 25 people dead in Australia, the government enacted 28-day waiting periods and thorough background checks. Since then, gun deaths have gone down. After a major school shooting in Canada, registration, permits, training courses and exams for all weapons were enforced, leading to fewer deaths.

“Thoughts and prayers” shared over Facebook and the president’s endorsement of teachers using concealed carries won’t cut it.

Mental health is certainly an aspect and when we have 30 million Americans without health care, let alone the majority of youth who don’t have adequate treatment for mental health disorders, getting everyone comprehensive coverage is essential.

But to deny the role of semiautomatic weapons, gun show loopholes and lobbying is to deny reality. What is more important, the sanctity of an amendment that was written when muskets were the primary means of defending a homestead, or the safe education of our children?

 Joseph Langan is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected].