Once again, American citizens are left to pick up the pieces after a tragic, unexpected shooting in our nation’s capital. The 12 deaths caused by Aaron Alexis at the Washington Navy Yard were traumatic and unnecessary, to say the least. Unfortunately, they were not particularly abnormal for a country that has more guns per head of population than any other nation in the world. Once again, the highly contentious gun control debate has been re-opened, particularly in respect to mental health problems. Sadly, the response to this tragedy may not be sufficient to bring forth necessary, indispensable change to the realm of gun control.
Discussing mental health is essential and it is clearly linked to gun violence. However, it is certainly not the only factor to consider while debating gun regulations and their place in our contemporary American society. Considering the murderer of many of these mass killings as a psychotic loner should not blind us from realizing what is behind these devastating events. While the worst mass shootings may take place in the United States, they do not have to be inevitable. Factoring in mental health is an important step forward, but it is not nearly enough to change our excessively permissive gun control laws and truly prevent gratuitous gun violence.
We can point fingers at mental health and at our infamously violent media and entertainment industry, but ultimately, the most important factor remains gun control. The only way to successfully prevent gun violence is by enforcing tighter laws and decreasing gun ownership. Facts are facts: most of the weapons used in mass killings are purchased legally. Most Americans can legally find and buy a gun in a matter of days without a state permit or owner license. Some can then bring their firearms to restaurants, bars, and playgrounds in states such as North Carolina. Who carries a gun when going out for a coffee or family dinner?
Some argue that these very laws are the basis of protecting our constitutional rights, the National Riffle Association included. But this outdated argument seems to ignore the strong, undeniable correlation between gun ownership and homicide firearm rates. It blindly pushes people to believe that more guns are making us safer, and that for some reason, law-abiding citizens need assault weapons.
Reality check: they don’t. They really, really don’t. And the truth is: shootings like those in D.C., Aurora, Tucson, and Newtown don’t fundamentally shift views on gun control. So I ask you: what will? A mental health bill? Will the silence end after more deaths and blood shed? How many more wasteful acts do we need to witness before we finally accept the fact that the violence needs to end? We need stricter gun laws, period.