Right to Life or the 2nd Amendment?

Alexandria Rubio (10), Alithia Ramirez (10), America Jo Garza (10), Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez (10), Eliahana Cruz Torres (10), Eliana Garcia (10), Eva Mireles (44), Irma Garcia (48), Jackie Cazares (10), Jayce Luevanos (10), Jose Flores (10), Layla Salazar (10), Makenna Lee Elrod (10), Maite Rodriguez (10), Miranda Mathis (11), Neveah Bravo (10), Rojelio Torres (10), Tess Marie Mata (10), Uziya Garcia (10), Xavier Lopez (10).

The twenty-one names listed above represent sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, mothers, friends and beautiful humans with so much to be hopeful and optimistic for, These are the 19 students and two teachers killed at Robb Elementary on Tuesday, May 24, 2022.

The year is less than halfway over and there have already been over 200 mass shootings (mass shooting being a minimum of 3 individuals shot) with over 7,000 deaths. This says nothing of the over 9,000 additional gun deaths caused by suicide.

The numbers are concerning, and they indicate an obvious problem: the United States has a mental health problem. 9,000 suicides by gun death alone, to say nothing of the other suicide causes, plus over 200 individuals deciding to pick up a firearm and engage in mass shootings of their fellow humans indicates rampant internal turmoil, pain, hatred, anger, and distress, all of which fall under the umbrella of a clear mental health issue that must be addressed.

Few would argue against the existence of an apparent mental health crisis. The alarming statistics surrounding the issue are glaringly apparent. What fewer Americans are willing to admit is not only that we have a mental health crisis, but that we also have an equally apparent though less admitted gun problem in this country. Combine the mental health crisis with the ready availability of high-powered, high-rate-of-fire rifles such as that used by the perpetrator in Uvalde, and we have hundreds of mass shootings a year.

The United States does not have a monopoly on mental health, but it is the only developed nation where repeated acts of gun violence have occurred with nothing being done other than a brief period of mourning, where politicians who understand the need to seem empathetic and human will call for thoughts and prayers but little else. They will then turni their backs and proceed business as usual, which for many of them means pandering to accepting donations from the National Rifle Association and other gun manufacturers or lobbyists who put them in office, and reassuring their constituents that they will continue to be own as many and as varied guns as their ashen hearts desire, because their right to own guns is more sacred than the right to life of anyone who might be harmed by such a gun.

If the issue is merely a mental health issue, an issue of disturbed people rather than an issue of beyond easily assessible sophisticated weaponry, then why do we not see mass shootings occurring in other countries? Only in America, where we have not only a mental health problem, but also a dangerous and unhealthy obsession with firearms do we observe ideal conditions for guns and mental health to combine like fire and gasoline to explode into tragedy after tragedy.

Without the easy availability of powerful firearms, these sick and disturbed people who go on shooting sprees at worst go on a stabbing spree, or hit people with their car, both means of terror we have seen before. Are such tragedies any less tragic? Of course not, but we can all appreciate the fact that such violent outbursts committed with a knife wielding madman, or a lunatic behind the wheel of an SUV are far less deadly than what a single teenager with a gun can inflict. The idealist in all of us would hope for a world with no mental distress and no outbursts of violence, but until we can such a recognize such a utopia where all of humankind’s negative emotions are extinct, we ought to do what we can to minimize impact of such violence.

Is the United States the only country to suffer from mass shootings? No. In Port Arthur Australia, 35 people were killed in 1996. 17 people were killed at the Dunblane School in Sterling UK/Scotland in 1996. In 51 people were killed at a mosque while attending prayer in Christchurch New Zealand in 2015. What does make the United States unique is the idiotic refusal to recognize a problem and failure to enact any meaningful legislature to prevent future disasters.

Think gun control doesn’t work? Each of the above countries enacted sweeping reform and legislation restricting gun ownership policies. In Australia, measures were placed on what types of firearms normal citizens could own. The result was a greater than 50% reduction in gun related homicide AND suicide by firearm deaths in the following years. No mass shootings have occurred in Australia since 1996. The UK decided to ban certain types of firearms and began performing mental health screenings on those who wished to purchase firearms. Only one mass shooting has occurred in the 26 years since, and in the UK people are 60x less likely to die from a gun than they are in the United States, even adjusted for population differences. In New Zealand following the 2015 Christchurch shooting, parliament passed sweeping regulation restricting firearm availability by 119-1, imagine such cooperation in government. Nope, not in America where even the death of children is a split issue that some would consider a necessary sacrifice in order to maintain their sense of freedom.

Don’t tell me that they don’t have mental health problems in those countries, because they do. Is population a factor? Maybe slightly, but even when adjusted for population, you are still over 6x more likely to die from a gun in the United States than in the next country in the list of “developed nations”, that being Cyprus. And do not tell me that this is just the price of freedom. Each of the countries above is a free and democratic society, where among other liberties the citizens enjoy, is the liberty of likely not being killed by a senseless act of gun violence.

Ensuring the “right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (words that came from an even earlier and equally sacred document as our Constitution, that being our Declaration of Independence) of every American should be the first responsibility of the government, not supporting what is clearly a very dated, misleading, and abused constitutional amendment to bear arms. Too many people in this country remain willing to let other people and their children die for their own rights and misplaced notion of freedom. Believing that our founding fathers were omnipotent, infallible, and that their word would be law for all eternity is complete lunacy. As time progresses so too does our understanding of the world, and as such we must ensure that our policies and attitudes are equally dynamic so as to keep up with an ever dynamic world. The founding fathers would likely have been appalled at the slaughter wrought by our own populace against itself as a consequence of a wildly misunderstood and misinterpreted second amendment.

I challenge anyone to read the obituaries or stories of the victims The article contains a few small details about the 21 people who lost their lives in what is only the most recent but somehow still not most deadly mass-shooting in the United States. Read their stories and tell me why you aren’t moved. Tell me why those children and their teacher’s death is a price you are willing to pay so that you can own 10 high powered assault rifles. These aren’t statistics. These are human beings. They had favorite pass times, best friends, joyous experiences remaining to be lived, meaningful contributions to be given to the world, and laughter and love to share.

Yes the blame rests on the clearly disturbed young man who pulled the trigger, and perhaps also on a society where more and more people are falling through the cracks, not being given the proper nurture and care they need. Of course we must do a better job of helping our people get access to the resources that can combat mental health disorders and stop such tragedies from even occurring. But we cannot tackle this problem by facing only one side of the issues. The larger problem remains obvious that so long as firearms are readily available, they have the potential to be used in harmful ways such as which this week is only the latest example.

Any human with a conscience and soul should be angry at such tragedies, and rightly so, most are. Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, or Stoneman Douglas, to name only a few of the school related mass shootings, why weren’t they enough. Many believe something needs to be done yet for some reason what must be done is still a hotly debated issue despite the obvious evidence of successful prevention of gun crime from some of our closest and most similar allies in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.

Among the most commonly suggested ways to prevent gun violence from the gun-loving crowd is the idea that we arm schools by training teachers and giving them firearms or placing more heavily armed guards on school campuses. In order to reach meaningful change we must show respect and consider the opinions of others, so lets do that. The idea of armed personnel who can respond to or prevent a deadly tragedy sounds somewhat appealing. Using Uvalde as an example however, we must take into consideration that one single untrained, disturbed teenager with a gun was able to force an entire police response team into a stand-down for over an hour while he continued his murderous rampage. I am not criticizing the Uvalde police department though many are. I was not there so I do not know all the details, and I cannot begin to pretend I understand the fear that must come from facing a man with a gun who wants to harm me. However, the idea that arming our schools will prevent shootings buckles when we consider again that a single untrained gunman was able to render an entire trained response team of armed police ineffective. If the people who are trained to protect us are unable to incapacitate a shooter with a LEGALLY purchased weapon, we have a serious problem. Perhaps we should consider banning such weapons that are so dangerous that they terrorize even police.

The other argument against gun control is that criminals don’t follow laws, so gun regulation won’t effect them. Well, we know that the Uvalde Shooter purchased his assault-rifle legally just days before and with little issue. How many other mass shootings were perpetrated with legally acquired firearms. Even amongst those acts of gun violence with illegally acquired firearms, we can be sure that most of those guns are being manufactured legally right here in the United States and are probably acquired legally somewhere along the distribution change before falling into the hands of criminals. Again, this highlights the need for gun reform.

Any responsible gun owner, which I count myself, ought to be willing to submit to stricter enforcements including restrictions on type of firearms we can purchase, mental health evaluations, and holding periods required before a gun can be delivered. If we are unwilling to undergo the slightest inconvenience in enjoying our second amendment rights such that others can have the right to live than shame on us. America used to be a place where people cared about their communities and would put the needs of the whole above their own selfish wants. This isn’t socialism to say we should work together. It is community and care. I would happily agree to an annual mental health screening if it meant a father could drop his daughter off at school and not wonder if that was the last time he would ever see her. I would happily agree to settle for owning a shotgun or two instead of an AR-15 if it meant that a middle school boy could sit in science class and worry about cellular respiration, or what he should say to his crush during recess – you know, normal kid stuff, rather than wonder which piece of equipment from the lab he would use to defend himself if or when a shooter walked through the door.

These enforcements would put roadblocks in place that may not stop all mass shootings but would significantly reduce the frequency and greatly move to ensure the safety of our public, something we should all be invested in protecting.

Read the stories of the victims here and tell me why your right to bear arms is more important than their right to life:

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-05-25/victims-of-uvalde-texas-school-shooting.

If you would like to help the grieving community of Uvalde, consider donating to one of several GoFundMe pages here:

https://www.gofundme.com/f/mtdrdc-texas-elementary-school-shooting-victims-fund

If you would like to take meaningful steps to curb the impact of gun violence, contact your 2 state senators and local representative.

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