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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

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Tragic school shooting revives conversation around gun legislation


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It’s a familiar routine, always taking place on a regular day. One where no one expects anything out of the ordinary. You look down at your phone and feel a familiar lump cresting in the back of your throat. The sadness and fatigue of a harrowing routine creep into your mind. As you stare at the gruesome news of another mass shooting glaring with the insignia of one our nation’s hallowed journalistic institutions, there will be thoughts, prayers, proposals and vitriol. But ultimately nothing will change.

The sequence of events surrounding mass shootings has become a brutal tradition in the American political landscape. Two days ago, a tragedy of this caliber once again struck the American conscience when a student in Parkland, Florida took a weapon and attacked his high school.

He did this with a legally acquired AR-15. This weapon has been called the preferred weapon for school shooters. In the state of Florida, it is easier to obtain than a handgun, according to the New York Times. 

The student, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, showed many signs of a school shooter. His Instagram page was littered with weapons and implications of animal cruelty. The teen had even posted a comment on his YouTube account saying: “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.” All the signs were there.

Multiplicities of Republicans have called for addressing the issue of mental health. President Trump was quoted  saying that he would “tackle the difficult issue of mental health.” Actually, people with mental illnesses account for relatively few of all mass shooters. 

Mental illness is a tragedy, but so is the act of Republicans using them as a crux for inaction on these atrocities. There are large scale societal issues to grapple with in terms of mass shootings. The signs of Cruz’s violent tendencies and the fact that no one in his life prevented this are horrifying. And it is deeply troubling that a disproportionate number of these shooters are white. The problem is that there are no immediate solutions to these issues.

There is a strong correlation between the number of deaths in a country and the level of gun ownership in a country. A person is equally likely to be robbed living in New York or London, but in New York that person is 54 times more likely to be killed in that interaction, according to a 1996 study.  The discrepancy between the two cities can be attributed to different rates of gun ownership.

There are towering cultural problems in America.

Gun legislation is not one of them. Fourty-four percent of Americans reported knowing someone who has been shot by a gun. Why not, instead of focusing on large incorporeal issues, focus on the tangibility of gun violence? 

There is no doubt that Nikolas Cruz was troubled, but the stakes of the situation increased by allowing easy access to firearms.

Lawmakers are cloaking themselves in the visage of mental health to avoid addressing the foundations of gun violence in America. We do not need thoughts or prayers. We need policy that is going to address the unadulterated access to assault weaponry.

How many children have to die, how many teachers have to become heroes and how many students must become villains before we do something?

The answer is not rhetoric, it is action. Stop feeling sorry and pass a bill.   

Opinion columnist Zach Appel is a political science sophomore and can be reached at [email protected]

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