Las Vegas shooting demands student action on gun control

Bullets rained down over the crowd of concertgoers in Las Vegas on Sunday night, killing at least 59 and injuring over 500 in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

We reacted with horror; we reacted with sadness; we reacted with anger. But we did not react with shock, because gun violence is who we are, as Americans.

As Washington University students, we have the power to influence gun reform.And the Student Life editorial board believes it is our generation’s responsibility to work toward this end.

Sadly, mass shootings have been a recurring event in our lives. The deadliest mass shooting in American history has changed three times in the past 10 years, with 32 massacred at Virginia Tech in 2007 and 49 at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. in 2016.

In addition to those tragedies, we’ve also cried through the 20 students and six teachers murdered in cold blood at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., the 14 shot down at Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, Calif. and the nine slain at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.

Each time, our politicians have offered prayers for the families and friends of victims while condemning the actions of the killers. They’ve described the incidences as unfortunate tragedies but unpreventable realities of life.

This notion is simply false. Following the massacre of 16 children and one adult in Scotland in 1996, British public support rallied behind gun control, and the United Kingdom banned all handguns. The same year, 35 people were struck down by a semi-automatic rifle in Tasmania, and an Australia-wide disarmament occurred. In the 20 years since, there was one mass shooting in the U.K., and there has not been a single mass shooting in Australia.

There have been 11 shootings with eight or more fatalities in the U.S. in just the past seven years. Even when accounting for population differences, our gun homicide rate is 25.2 times higher than that of other developed countries—and we have done little to change this, despite tragedy after tragedy.

Yes, gun violence is who we are, but we, as college students, must make strides toward a U.S. in which gun violence is not a constant.

How? Take concrete action: Call your representatives. Sign petitions. Donate time or money to anti-gun violence organizations, like Everytown for Gun Safety, States United Against Gun Violence and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. Speak out, not just against the killings of the innocent but against the system that caused their deaths.

Posting Facebook statuses and Instagram photos commemorating the lives of those lost is a valid response to such tragedies. But thoughts and prayers spread on social media will not prevent another mass shooting like this.

Mass shootings have characterized our lives, and mass shootings will continue to characterize our lives, so long as all we do is mourn victims without demanding legislative change.

The Las Vegas gunman, Stephen Paddock, had purchased over 30 guns in the past year, legally. Among his weapons were high-powered rifles with the capacity to penetrate police armor, owned legally. The gunman likely rigged his weapons with a device (called a bump stock) that modifies rifles, allowing him to shoot at automatic fire speed, legally.

And while the next mass shooting might not lead to as high a number of fatalities, the chances are good that the next mass shooter will have also purchased weapons legally because more than 80 percent of mass shootings have occurred using guns purchased legally.

Some of these changes could be implemented with widespread public support: Studies show that a resounding 84 percent of Americans are in favor of having background checks for gun purchasers. But right now, only nine U.S. states require universal background checks for the purchase of all classes of firearms, and in 36 states, gun buyers don’t even need a permit.

Here in Missouri, gun laws are among the weakest in our weak-on-gun-control country. Missouri gun owners do not need permits. Missouri gun owners do not need to register their guns. Missouri gun owners do not need licenses.

Our editorial board has challenged Washington University students time and time again to become more deeply invested in our St. Louis community—and here is one regional cause worth fighting for, one tangible way to work toward the betterment of our home for four years.

Progress will not be instantaneous: The National Rifle Association exerts great political influence and around 40 percent of American households own at least one gun. Progress will not be easy: Many Americans believe that the solution to this violence is to fight gun with gun.

But progress will happen, if Wash. U. students, along with other students across the country, work toward reform.

Gun control is a chance for our generation to make a positive impact. This issue has remained stagnant throughout our lifetimes—and, in fact, gun control laws have loosened in the wake of mass shootings, not tightened.

This is our problem to live with—as citizens of the world, as Americans and as college students. But it is also our problem to fix, so that the next time something like this happens, we are not just heartbroken but also shocked.

  • Val Ryland

    Liberals: Donald Trump is the second coming of Satan.

    Also liberals: only Donald Trump and people under his command should have access to guns.

    Bewildering.

  • Sarah Schaefer

    Try again – the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history was at Wounded Knee: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wounded_Knee_Massacre
    #revisionisthistory