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Sutherland Springs shooting dilutes Texas’ good spirits

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This terrifying shooting in a church near San Antonio shows that no place is safe from gun violence, whether it be a religious sanctuary, a movie theater or a music festival.

The Sutherland Springs shooting is a heartbreaking one for a number of reasons. Multiple people have been injured or killed in the horrifying incident at First Baptist Church. A church service was underway around 11:30 a.m. when the shooter, Devin Kelley, entered clad in armor and opened fire on parishioners.

The current toll is 26 dead and more than 20 injured, but local authorities are still updating information. Kelley was found dead in his car, but it remains uncertain whether it was suicide or by a resident. It seems in the wake of such frequent shootings, we experience a worrying desensitization as a nation.

Kelley entered in a ballistic vest and black tactical gear, which is evidence of his premeditated plans. Despite having a bad conduct discharge and being court martialed for domestic assault, he acquired a semi-automatic weapon.   

This shooting is especially devastating for the small, tightly knit community of Sutherland Springs, where Floresville resident Alena Berlenga said  “everybody’s going to be affected, and everybody knows someone who’s affected.”

The habitual thoughts and prayers have emerged from President Donald Trump, Texas Gov. Greg Abott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Trump and Abott maintain conservative opinions on gun control, even though this is the largest mass shooting in Texas history.

This has become the national default to these massacres, but there has been no further elaboration on possible motivations behind such an act of hatred. The debate over gun control and gun violence now feels like a tired and repetitive cycle, incited only after mass shootings.

This shooting is especially heartbreaking because it took place in a house of worship, a place that previously represented solace and sanctuary. The jeopardy we are all placed in, as a result of the easy access and lack of regulation of firearms, breeds an institutionalized, incessant fear that shifts the values of the United States.

Trump has tweeted that he is monitoring the situation from Japan and hoping that God stays with the victims. This message to appease the public offers no real consolation or solace for the families of the victims. Victims ages ranged from five to 72, including the 14-year-old daughter of the church’s pastor.

The proclivity to present those grieving for their losses with thoughts and prayers is tempting, but taking a definitive stance on gun control is the only sincere action that can prevent further anguish and suffering.

Texas is reputable for its lenient gun laws, mandating only that a buyer must be 18 and a resident of the state. In Texas, you are not allowed to posses a handgun, which Kelley had on him, if you have a Class A misdemeanor, which Kelley has from domestic violence.

In the shooting, he used a Ruger AR-556 rifle, which was illegally purchased after the domestic violence trial.

The relationship between the frequency of these shootings and the growing deregulation of the gun industry is an undeniable one as I mentioned in my previous article regarding the Las Vegas shooting.

There are many details missing from this story, including motivations, Kelley’s affiliations and a verified casualty count, but one thing is for sure: The frequency of these instances is unsettling. Two of the nation’s top five deadliest shootings have now occurred just over one month apart.

Texas recently emerged from Hurricane Harvey and is still celebrating a World Series win, but tragedies like this must humble us. The United States must unite to identify the common catalyst for case after case of mass shootings and violence.

We are burdened once again, as a nation, with this heartbreak. The consequences of our gun laws are embodied in the casualties we see in every tragic shooting, but there is a compromise somewhere amid the vicious debate for gun laws.

Until it is found, countless men, women and children will fall martyr to this fight.

Senior staff writer Anusheh Siddique is a political science freshman. She can be reached at [email protected].

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