As we woke up Monday, we were shocked by the report that over 20 people had been killed in a shooting in Las Vegas. The number of dead kept rising until the toll now stands at 59 people. There are also hundreds of people in hospitals with gunshot wounds.
As a mother of three teenagers, I always worry about shootings at schools. Why must I tell my children that if there is a shooter, to pretend that you are dead? Why must I tell my children to always keep vigilant? Why I must tell my children that they are not allowed to go to any more concerts?
While I wish the shooting in Las Vegas would lead to changes in our gun laws and efforts to address the reasons people, mostly white men, engage in such violence, I fear that nothing will change.
The shooting in Las Vegas raises again the specter of the gun lobby’s complicity with mass shootings. Now, you cannot pretend you are dead and just lie there because shots can come from above. Now, you have to recognize that shots can come from a distance. Now, you must realize that in this country, a “normal” white male can initiate an act of mass killings. We can no longer be on the lookout for only “personality disorder” like Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 86 in Oslo, in July 2011.
The senseless deaths and the wounds inflicted on so many are disturbing. They combine with the horror of watching and listening to the event and will lead people to wonder for years, “how could this have happened?”
A few years ago, I was in Germany for a World Council of Churches’ meeting. As we were being transported by bus from one city to another, our kind German leader told our group of world travelers that “you cannot understand Germany’s love for speed on the road, just like we cannot understand America’s love for guns.”
That statement haunts me today. Why are Americans so in love with guns? Growing up in Canada, it was rare to hear of shootings; all the shooting news stories seemed to come from the U.S. These shooting stories always made me afraid to travel to the U.S. as I feared that I might be shot.
Our German guide was not alone. People in countries around the world cannot understand America’s love for guns. Some countries have police officers who don’t even carry guns, Norway, Iceland, and Ireland among them.
As Americans continue to argue that guns saves lives, we need to think about the unthinkable violence that guns have caused on American soil verses other countries who have stricter gun laws. Studies show that Americans are 10 times more likely to be killed by guns than people in other developed countries.
As more tragic deaths occur on our streets, schools, homes and public places, we need to expunge our love for guns and not become indifferent to gun violence. If the love of guns results in evil, we need to eliminate it from our homes, streets and country.
Tragically, some may argue that our history of gun violence, experienced in mass shootings that hold the national attention and in daily shootings that fail to make the national news, is simply a cost for our firearms freedoms. But this should not be our reality. There can be a better future: where our children can go to concerts without fear, our children can go to school without fear and a future where gun violence is something of the past.