One mass shooting is too many

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Seventeen people were murdered last week at a high school in Parkland, Florida. To say they died or passed away is not enough in explaining the despicable act one 19-year-old killer committed. It was a heartless, premeditated murder of children and their teachers that could have been prevented.

Over and over, Americans are shocked to see yet another mass shooting in the news despite the consistent reoccurrences. Four of the 10 deadliest mass shootings have occurred within the last two years, including those in Las Vegas (Oct. 1, 2017; 58 dead), Orlando (June 12, 2016; 49 dead), Sutherland Springs, Texas (Nov. 5, 2017; 25 and an unborn child dead), and now Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida (Feb. 14, 2018; 17 dead).

All of these shootings with high death tolls have a few things in common regarding the event and what followed.

First, semi-automatic weapons were used for the express purpose of hurting innocent bystanders. Also known as assault weapons, these weapons are known as “a civilian version of a military machine gun.” The firearm automatically reloads, though a shooter must pull the trigger each time they want to fire a round. The only separation between a semi-automatic weapon like the AR-15 used in the Parkland Massacre and an automatic weapon is how quickly your finger can pull a trigger.

Second, thoughts and prayers were broadcast across social media and in religious institutions after the shootings, particularly by members of lawmaking bodies. While the emotional support for surviving victims and families of those killed was kind and thoughtful, it changed neither the event nor the outcomes of shootings that followed. Thoughts and prayers are not equal to actions.

Third, although new laws were proposed to enforce stricter gun control, each of them failed. In the wake of the Parkland Massacre, a bill to prevent the sale and possession of assault rifles like those repeatedly used in these bloodbaths was rejected Tuesday by the Florida State House of Representatives.

To summarize, the aftermath of every mass shooting has done nothing to prevent the next one. I can say “the next one” with certainty because state and federal gun control laws are so subpar that little is stopping the next hateful individual from killing more undeserving men and women.

Among the problems with gun control is the ability for a civilian to buy semi-automatic weaponry. There is no reason a civilian in the U.S. needs to own, much less use, a grade of weapon that has repeatedly been used to cause massive death and injury tolls. The sale, possession, and use of these assault weapons are major holes in the protection against domestic terrorism.

To those who say the weapons are not to blame but the individuals who wield them, I would direct them to the insufficient background check laws required to purchase them. In a number of states, if a background check was passed within the last five years, another one isn’t required. The same follows if the purchasers have certain permits, such as a concealed weapons permit. Private, unlicensed sellers never need to submit to a background check if the state doesn’t require one, as there are no federal requirements. These are some of the problems surrounding the ease with which a domestic abuser, a convicted felon, or a person with a mental illness could purchase a firearm legally — and it only scratches the surface.

Still, there are those who will refer to the Second Amendment. Yes, in the Bill of Rights, Americans have the right to bear arms… but that’s the second half of the statement. The full amendment reads as follows: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Americans are not buying guns to form a militia or to protect their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It may be for personal protection in their homes or hunting for sport, but there is still no reason for anyone to have a stockpile of weapons, particularly assault weapons.

If these clear problems are not enough to get the ball rolling on gun control laws, then there may never be an event to prompt lawmakers to take action. How many more children will have to die in their schools? How many pregnant women will have to be gunned down in their church? How many mass shootings will finally be too many for America?

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