I’ll say it up front: I don’t like guns.
To be honest, I’m not sure if the sentiment was one that always existed, or if it rose up after various moments in my life.
The first time I noticed it was when my high school went under lockdown for over four hours due to a gun on the premises that was never found. My body seized with fear as a SWAT team patrolled our roof and state police barged through doors without warning. The time I remember most vividly though, of course, is when a neo-Nazi man entered my childhood house of worship, the Oak Creek Gurdwara in Wisconsin, and killed six members of the community.
Since then, the sound of a gunshot, even if in a show, movie or musical, makes my heart stop. There had been moments, walking home at night in Ann Arbor, where I drove myself crazy convincing myself that any car that was driving by might try to shoot me. My fear was absolutely irrational and borderline insane. Yet, there were times when I couldn’t find the logic to convince myself otherwise. I, in part due to the media and inaction on the part of United States politicians, had allowed gun violence to become normal, an expected part of daily life.
However, I’ve been able to reflect and realize the difference between a gun and the person behind it. I’ve seen that ignorance can lead to hate-driven violence, that our society accepts anger as a reaction to rejection, that some individuals are not given the proper care and facilities they need. However, most of all, I’ve seen and learned that there is not one blanket solution to mass shootings. Each shooter has had their own reasons for their actions, and although taking the lives of others is never justified, I think we have learned that simply limiting access to guns won’t be enough.
So, what’s the conversation we really need to have? Is it the way that the media chooses to prostitute the coverage of certain shootings while completely ignoring others? Is it the assumptions that are made about a shooter based on the color of his skin? White man, mentally ill; brown man, terrorist. Is it the way that we use mental illness as an excuse for killing and suffering, as if all mental illnesses lead to deadly rampages? Or, most recently, why a man felt that a gun and the deaths of many individuals was the appropriate solution for his feelings of rejection?
All these conversations have happened, and yet, they’re still not the right one. Somehow, the mass shootings keep happening and we’ve yet to do anything to prevent another one. Our reality has become one of violence, death and excuses, even though our Constitution calls for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Without any real action or call for justice, this may just become the new “normal.”
Richard Martinez, the father of University of California, Santa Barbara shooting victim Chris Martinez, summed up the impatience of most of Americans as mass shootings become more and more common: “Don’t call me and tell me you’re sorry about my son’s death. I don’t want to hear it from you! I don’t want to hear that you’re sorry about my son’s death, I don’t care if you’re sorry about my son’s death. You go back to Congress and you do something, and you come back to me and tell me you’ve done something, then I’ll be interested in talking to you.”
It’s time to stop accepting mass shootings as an everyday reality and question how our nation even got to this place to begin with. Allowing a person to carelessly end the lives of others should never be allowed, nor should it be a consideration for anyone. And mostly, it’s time to stop pretending that we have no way to prevent these senseless murders. It was unbelievable after Columbine, it was heartbreaking after Sandy Hook and now, after the UCSB shooting, it’s absolutely absurd. We’ve been waiting for action long enough, and it’s time that Congress finally answers the call.
Harleen Kaur can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.