On Saturday night, a celebration of LGBT pride at a Pulse Florida Nightclub in Orlando was brutally upended by a deadly massacre — the worst mass shooting in the history of America, leaving 49 people killed, 53 injured and an entire nation mourning.
While Orlando has been the most extreme case, the shooting is one of the many tragedies that have occurred in the past few weeks. The gunman pledged allegiance to ISIS and the organization recently claimed responsibility for the attack.
In light of the recent UCLA murder-suicide and the assassination of singer Christina Grimmie, it is events like these that divide our country and raise heated debates involving grave issues such as gun control, mental health, terrorism and LGBT rights.
Many against gun control raise the argument that this is not a gun control issue — that this was an act of terrorism by a homophobic Muslim and that mass shootings have occurred even in countries with strict gun control laws, such as the Paris attacks in France. While it is true that the war on terror is extremely significant, it does not discount the fact that the problem is not religion or sexuality, but the mindsets — perpetuated by American gun culture — and weapons that foster and enable these atrocities to happen.
According to The Washington Post, roughly 30,000 people die in gun-violence-related crimes annually. Americans are 10 times more likely to be killed by guns than people in other developed countries, a study by Health Day found. Compared to 22 other high-income nations, the United States’ gun-related murder rate is 25 times higher. Even though the United States’ suicide rate is similar to other countries, the nation’s gun-related suicide rate is eight times higher than other high-income countries.
Not only that, a review of 2010 World Health Organization data shows that despite having a similar rate of crimes as other countries, the United States has a much higher rate of deadly violence, mostly due to the higher rate of gun-related murders. In fact, even though the United States has half the population of the other 22 nations combined, it accounted for 82 percent of the world’s gun deaths.
American gun culture has become so ridiculous that gun rights have become more important than human lives. We live in a country where people protect a document, written centuries ago, that could not have possibly anticipated the events that could unfold in our time. It is true that our country was founded under the Constitution, but the American public is now so desensitized to the issue of gun access that, even after tragedies like the Sandy Hook shooting, right-wingers are quick to point fingers at every race and religion imaginable without ever questioning the Second Amendment.
Muslims and members of the LGBT community live in fear and are targeted with hatred on a daily basis while there are “All-American” shooters who slip through the cracks without much public attention.
The GOP’s legislation that is often contrary to LGBT interests, coupled with its stubborn defense of the Second Amendment is not only causing division within their own political party, but also within America. Their continuous support for gun rights in the face of injustice and perpetuation of Islamophobia has indirectly led to these killings by distracting from the issue of gun control.
It should not take horror after horror and a large number of deaths to wake up the American public. With the number of gun-related incidents increasing, our nation has become complicit and numb to these tragedies. These casualties should not be just statistics we glance at. Our country is strong and resilient — in addition to prayer and thoughts, we must continue to fight for policy changes to stop gun violence. While it may be insensitive that many of the presidential candidates are using this national catastrophe for political promotion, it is essential that we exercise our civic duty by participating in the upcoming election and voting for a leader who will actively work toward implementing real change in gun control laws.