COLUMN: No exit from America’s recurring nightmare of mass shootings

After the recent mass shootings, politicians debated ways to stop these tragedies, but failed to agree on an effective plan of gun reform.

Mavis is a sophomore journalism and political science major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about current affairs for The Maneater.

Right now, the country seems to be going through a collective deja vu.

I remember the first day I stepped foot in the United States — land of the free and home of the brave!

It was a bright, hot August afternoon. My aunt and uncle waited for hours to pick me up at the airport. It was my first time meeting them face-to-face; after an effusive exchange of pleasantries and politeness, we didn't know what else to say.

My uncle turned on the car radio. Immediately, the voice of an NPR News anchor broke the awkward silence.

"Twenty-nine people are dead after two mass shootings — one in El Paso, Texas, and the other early today in Dayton, Ohio," the host said. Soon afterward, a more in-depth NPR News article stated that advocates for gun reform were "dissatisfied with politicians’ offers of thoughts and prayers.” “Congress has been unable to agree on sweeping gun legislation since the 1990s," according to the Washington Post. Over the next few days, whenever I listened to the radio or read the newspapers, I would come across those familiar lines.

About a year and a half later, the same script is being read across America all over again. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a panel after the Atlanta, Georgia and Boulder, Colorado shootings to discuss gun control. Predictably, Democratic and Republican Senators all condemned mass shootings, but they couldn’t agree on what to do about it.

Democratic politicians pushed for two bills expanding background checks and giving more time for federal vetting; most Senate Republicans said these measures will only make it harder for ordinary people to exercise their Second Amendment rights. Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley said, “In the dialogue about gun control, we rarely consider how many Americans are united in their advocacy and enjoyment of this right."

Any bookkeeper worth their salt will tell a gambler to bet everything against the bills passing through the Senate.

Like it or not, America is a country with a deep gun culture. Take the MU community. I can’t count the number of Instagram posts from fellow students I’ve seen with a game bird slung over their shoulders.

Plenty of Missourians hunt in the fall, fish in the summer or drive a pickup truck. They also pay their taxes, cast their votes and follow the law. It’s their way of life, it’s how they’ve always lived from one generation to another. In their minds, they’ve done nothing wrong, so there is no reason for them to give up their possessions.

Pro-gun politicians like Sen. Ted Cruz think that simply tightening everybody’s access to guns will not stop mass shootings. A 2017 Pew Research Center report showed that a majority of gun owners possessed firearms for protection. Clearly, pro-gun activists believe that equipping more people with guns will lead to people being able to fend off gun attacks.

How many ordinary people, without intensive or professional training in firearm usage, can successfully defend themselves against shooters who wouldn't hesitate before firing?

In response to school shootings, five states — namely Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, Texas and South Dakota — have passed laws that train teachers to carry firearms. These laws put a ridiculous burden on teachers. For them to go to work every day thinking they may have to personally kill one of their own students is a psychological pressure that nobody should bear, especially overworked teachers.

As for students, the chances of getting caught in the crossfire will no doubt increase. Not only do they have to attend active shooter drills, but they also need ‘active shootout' drills. A modern public school is a place for learning, not the reincarnation of the Wild Wild West.

Other school districts have come up with ideas such as having police officers guarding and patrolling schools as a preventive measure. However, the recent Black Lives Matter protests revealed many instances where these officers were unduly rough in breaking up fights. Moreover, their treatment of students of color had also come under question.

Even if all the officers have impeccable conduct, I doubt this is a healthy way for children to grow up. The whole setup is too reminiscent of a Big Brother society, where the hobnailed boot of the state is always just round the corner.

Big radical reforms are most likely impossible at this moment, but survey after survey showed there is room for compromise. For example, a majority of people support barring the mentally ill and people on federal watch lists from buying guns. Legislation can start there.

President Joe Biden announced a series of executive actions to curb gun violence on April 7, , including regulating homemade ‘ghost guns,’ models of ‘red flag’ laws and other measures. Advocacy groups have also focused on changing public opinion and trying to convince more people to support gun laws. Moms Demand Action compiled a list of federal and state candidates that support gun reform among other initiatives. The youth-led March for Our Lives and nonprofit lobbying groups like the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence are actively lobbying state and federal governments to pass stricter gun laws.

The fight to win over the hearts and minds will take a long time, but at least these groups are stepping up to the challenge.

The tortuous soul-searching the country is going through will likely come up with nothing in Congress. Until any real change happens, we can only hope that another mass shooting won’t happen. The free cannot remain free if they have to look over their shoulders all the time; the brave cannot remain brave if they have to look for the back door whenever they enter a room.

_In pursuit of racial and social equity, The Maneater encourages its readers to donate to NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, a legal organization dedicated to fighting for racial justice through litigation and education. Donate at: https://act.naacpldf.org/p/salsa/donation/common/public/?donate_page_KEY=15780

Edited by Sofi Zeman | szeman@themaneater.com

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