The Cycle of Shootings

Gun Rights

There is nothing that saddens and angers me more than mass shootings and gun violence. It’s impossible to go one week without seeing headlines about a shooting happening in Anytown, USA. The latest notable shooting came last week in Kansas City during the Chiefs’ Super Bowl parade that left one dead and 22 injured. But every time one of these shootings occur, the response seems to be exactly the same and follows a clear pattern that creates a cycle of shootings. 

Whenever a shooting occurs, many Americans quickly take to social media to post three dreaded words: thoughts and prayers. This is by far the most useless, pointless and meaningless phrase in the English language – and that’s a lot coming from a member of Gen Z, as we’re not exactly known for our ways with words. Posting this phrase gives individuals a sense of comfort by making them believe that they are helping the situation by offering their condolences. But saying this phrase acts as a substitute for more meaningful action. Even something as simple as reposting statistics about gun violence is better than thoughts and prayers because it at least adds to the conversation about shootings. Thoughts and prayers add nothing to the valuable discourse about gun violence and merely serves as a way for people to avoid the conversation. 

It’s even worse when politicians use the phrase, especially those in the formerly-respected Republican Party. Republicans are quick to offer thoughts and prayers, but then quickly pivot to protecting Second Amendment rights. A prime example of this occurred in 2018 when in the wake of a shooting in Thousand Oaks, California, then-Senator-elect Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee made sure to emphasize the importance of protecting gun rights. While I do agree that a balance should be struck between preventing shootings and protecting gun rights of law-abiding Americans, to immediately begin talking about protecting gun rights right after a shooting has occurred is inappropriate and disrespectful to victims of gun violence.  

Americans march the streets to rally for more gun control, specifically related to semi-automatic assault weapons that are frequently used in shootings. Photo by Chip Vincent/Unsplash

Once the immediate reactions to the shooting subside, the national conversation always turns to this question: What can we do to prevent this from happening again? Democrats and other Americans with common sense often rally for more gun control, specifically related to semi-automatic assault weapons that are frequently used in shootings. On the other hand, Republicans are always quick to jump into action to shut down any attempts to revoke their precious gun rights. It’s not shocking at all that this occurs given that the National Rifle Association funnels millions of dollars to GOP politicians and candidates every year, especially during election years, to push their agenda of absolutely no regulations on guns. They smear proposals like calls for more background checks and banning assault weapons as extreme, un-American and threatening to liberty. Republicans often pivot by arguing that the focus should be on improving mental health to prevent shootings from occurring. While I won’t deny that mental health is important to talk about in regards to shootings, this shouldn’t be used to shut down legitimate calls for gun control. It’s also worth noting that congressional Republicans don’t exactly have the best track record in supporting youth mental health initiatives. 

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As a result of Republicans standing as a united front against gun control, little has been accomplished at the congressional level to resolve the issue of gun violence. The most notable legislation passed was the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which became law in June 2022 after the horrific shooting in Uvalde, Texas the month prior. Provisions of the law included more background checks and increased mental health support spending. The law’s passage was a rarity, given that Congress hadn’t passed a gun control bill in 28 years. Not even the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012 led to any legislation, despite the strong push for action. Aside from this recent law, little has been accomplished on the legislative level to combat shootings.  

After legislation fails to come to light and a shooting loses its relevance in the national mindset, the next shooting occurs and the process repeats itself all over again. Unless meaningful change is made to gun laws in this country, Americans will be stuck in a cycle of meaningless words, Republican denial of the gun issue and a constant barrage of shootings that occur so frequently that we become numb to it. At this rate, I highly doubt that we’re going to break out of this cycle any time soon.  

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