I’m angry. I’m heartbroken.
I woke up at 6:30 am on Monday morning to news that should be unimaginable: a devastating mass shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada. A man stood in a hotel room with an arsenal of high-powered rifles and shot out the window, taking 58 lives. There were over 500 people injured during the horror. But it’s not unimaginable. These tragedies happen too often to not be imagined, and worse, expected. They are all too real and happen too often.
Only a year and a half after the deadly Pulse nightclub shooting, this is now the worst mass shooting in our nation’s history. Until the next one takes even more lives. They will keep happening because we have leaders who do nothing.
After working in gun violence prevention for five years, I know too many people who have lost loved ones to pretend not know what many families today are going through. I can picture terrified parents arriving at chaotic and overwhelmed trauma hospitals. I can picture friends searching for other friends who were lost amidst the chaos of the shooting, feeling scared and guilty for losing track of them. I can picture the survivors closing their eyes and trying to shut out the nightmare of the shooting itself. I can picture the injured being treated for horrific wounds that should only be seen on a battlefield.
And each time another shooting happens, all the victims, survivors, and family members will be traumatized all over again.
The details are still rolling in, but the outcome will be the same as in every other shooting: overwhelming death and injury because someone had easy access to a weapon of war. And Congress will once again do nothing beyond offering their thoughts and prayers over social media. And the American people will stay outraged for a short time.
Will we get through the 58 funerals before people start moving on? Will the wounded finish their treatment before Congress starts debating ways to loosen our gun laws even further for the profits of the gun industry? This preventable tragedy has become so normalized, I know the cycle by heart. Any meaningful conversations about policies and laws preventing this cycle from repeating itself will get distorted and perverted to discussions of the protection of gun rights. We will note it as the worst mass shooting in our history until the next one happens and even more lives have been taken and even more families and communities have been destroyed.
But there will be some people who will be left wondering if THIS time, things will be different.
We know it can be different. In 1996, Australia experienced their own tragic mass shooting at Port Arthur in the southern region of Tasmania. A shooter opened fire in the tourist town and took 35 lives and injured 23 more. Australian leaders decided that was enough, and they overhauled their gun laws to protect their residents from ever experiencing that pain again.
It worked. Australia has experienced no mass shootings since the tragedy.
Australia also doesn’t experience the levels of daily gun violence that we experience in the United States. Last week, Baltimore experienced 12 gun homicides. Twelve people dead in one week. While the media is rightly covering the Vegas shooting, there are people dying every day from guns without a word from the media or outrage from the public.
Last week, Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence released our new photo project, Behind the Statistics. We are telling the stories of those affected by everyday gun violence in Maryland. The lives taken in cities by gun homicide and in rural and suburban areas from gun suicide are not given mass coverage and included in high-profile conversations about how to prevent their deaths and injuries. We talk about these deaths in terms of numbers and statistics, but we don’t learn their names or see their faces. I hope that as we all mourn the lives in Las Vegas, we also mourn all the other lives stolen by gun violence.
Right now, Congress and the president are working to pass legislation that will de-regulate silencers. Can you imagine how much worse the shooting would have been had the gun been equipped with a silencer? We must all raise our voices and demand that Congress defeats this bill and begins to look for real answers to prevent this from happening again.
Over the past year, Americans have shown their mettle and fought back against oppressive and hurtful policies being put forth by the administration. We all need to come together on this issue, because we know we can live better, safer lives. We need to fight for a federal ban on military-style rifles and high-capacity rounds. We need We need the federal government to once again allow for research to study gun violence. We need to fight to protect ourselves and our families. We can change our country.
I am angry. I’m heartbroken. I’m hopeful.