By: Robert Bryson and Ridgeway Woulfe
This is Rob and Ridgeway. We’ll be spearheading PIAC’s Gun Control Series, with contributions from others along the way. This series will provide a thorough data and legal-based analysis for the issues that arise in the gun debate. Before we begin the series, however, we wanted to take the time to give a personal experience for why it is important to us to find solutions to our gun problem.
My experience with gun violence comes down to the Northern Illinois University’s Valentine’s Day shooting in 2008, which forged my views on guns.
A gunman killed 7 in the classroom where I had my PoliSci class. On my way to a class next door, several people grabbed me in terror, pleading with me not to go any further. At the time, I thought it was marketing one of those campus-wide games, so I overlooked the bloody clothes to keep going to see a usually busy area deserted. I debated with a classmate whether we can miss class when we still weren’t sure what was going. After the sirens came, I retreated to my dorm, watching the news with my floor to figure out what was happening, unsure of we were still in danger. Finals and the rest of the semester were cancelled. With my hometown friends still at college, I became obsessed with the news to try and put a reason to it. To this day, there’s still no explanation for why he did it.
My experience doesn’t even cover the breadth of suffering guns cause, but it is enough to be desperate for a change.
The American Process
What followed Ridgeway’s and many others’ experiences is now a familiar process for American political leaders.
Step: One: expressions of grief, confusion, and thoughts and prayers.
Step Two: promises of legislative action, vows to never allow another massacre to occur again;
Step Three: special interest groups begin cannibalizing the process (famously, the NRA but others as well);
Step Four: infighting, finger-pointing, recrimination, and – ultimately – legislative cowardice; and
Step Five: rinse and repeat.
What has followed is a steady and reliable tempo of mass shootings. It seems the country cannot go nine months without another record-breaking mass shooting. Mass shootings just scratch the surface of gun deaths in this country. Gun deaths just scratch the surface of gun violence. America undeniably has a gun problem, and solutions must be implemented, not just discussed. Other countries have shown that an entrenched gun culture doesn’t have to be the ultimate veto; it is merely one more factor to consider in crafting an everything-above-the-board approach.
The causes of gun violence are as numerous as they are complicated. As much as opponents to gun control will try to isolate the perpetrators into select groups to thwart, the gun problem is not limited to a “type.” A doctor does not see the symptoms of a disease and look the patients’ differences to demonstrate the disease isn’t the problem. They treat the disease. In the same way, our legislators must stop analyzing differences and must do something about gun violence.
The fight for impactful changes is long and appears to much longer to alter the course on a national level. All the same, with small incremental victories, we can take real steps to reduce the suffering guns cause. While we are far from ending it entirely, much like the starfish parable, every bit we can do is worthwhile.