This Sunday saw two mass shootings — one in the early hours of the morning near the University of Kansas that resulted in three deaths, and another in the evening on the Las Vegas Strip that resulted in 58. The shooting in Las Vegas was the largest in modern U.S. history.
It’s important to note that I say “modern history,” because, as the National Association of Black Journalists pointed out in 2016 following the Orlando massacre that killed 49, more than 100 African Americans were shot dead in mass shootings in 1917 and 1873.
By no means am I trying to mitigate the severity of Sunday’s shooting and the need for serious policy change to prevent such tragedies from happening again. But I’m certain we can balance this sense of urgency with recognition of the disproportionate historic and modern consequences of gun violence on people of color, women, children, the differently abled and the LGBTQ community.
In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, the fight to protect human rights and, in particular, the right of marginalized groups to pursue life, liberty and happiness is often scornfully tagged as “identity politics” — soft issues that are unimportant in the grand scheme of things. In particular, embittered portrayals of the fight for gun control as “political opportunism” from Democrats in the wake of national tragedies underscore this problem with our dialogue — a problem that ignores the lived consequences Americans face when their lawmakers politicize basic human decency.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, House Speaker Paul Ryan and a number of other key Republicans scorned the idea of “politicizing” a tragedy by deigning to discuss policies that could prevent future mass gun-related fatalities, or claimed it wasn’t the “right time.” Of course, it wasn’t the right time for 58 to be shot dead, nor will it ever be the “right time” for shootings that could easily have been prevented. Former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly went so far as to shrug off the deaths of these 58 Americans as the “price of freedom” in our great, great America.
When Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire on thousands of people at a country music festival outside the Mandalay Bay resort, Paddock did not discriminate. Every day, 315 Americans are shot in murders, suicides, unintentional shootings and police interventions, and on average, every year, the United States observes roughly 12,000 gun homicides. The availability of semi-automatic rifles, the looseness of gun show sales and the lax policies favoring domestic abusers and individuals with criminal histories obtaining firearms put us all in greater danger, regardless of any facet of our identity.
But that being said, everyday cases of domestic abuse and violence against women, last year’s Orlando shooting at a gay night club, the staggering homicide rates faced by trans people and systemic violence by law enforcement toward people of color, all demonstrate how our nation’s stalemate on gun control is an attack on some of America’s most marginalized groups.
We’ve all heard the oft-repeated pro-gun counterargument to this: Just arm everyone to equalize the playing field. An oft-shared commercial from the National Rifle Association — the pro-gun lobbying superpower that the vast majority of Republican lawmakers rely on for funding — portrays women empowering themselves against domestic abusers by obtaining guns.
But contrary to the “good guy with a gun” — or, in this case, “good girl with a gun” — theory, strong evidence exists to show that firearms are inherently offensive mechanisms, meant to neither defend nor equalize. States with more guns and more relaxed gun laws have higher rates of gun-related deaths than states with fewer guns and more stringent laws. And in countries like Australia, whose lawmakers responded to mass shootings with new restrictions and programs to take away firearms from people with violent histories, rates of gun-related deaths have since plummeted, according to a 2010 study.
The focus of this column is feminism, and gun control is in many ways a feminist issue. However, it’s also a common sense issue.
The Second Amendment — which was written at a time when the existence of today’s mass killing machines was unfathomable, when America was nowhere near the militaristic superpower that it is today, and civilians had to form their own militias to survive — is fundamentally incompatible with today’s technologically advanced, diverse society. And even when our Founding Fathers wrote the Bill of Rights in the 18th century, they recognized the need to include the words “well regulated” in the amendment.
At the end of the day, gun control is also an issue inextricably bound to our nation’s capacity to feel compassion. Today, anti-abortion groups line their campaign ads with the faces of babies and children, all while their self-identified “pro-life” vessels in Congress last week let the Children’s Health Insurance Program expire, and in 2012 declined to take action and enact common sense gun control laws following a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn.
In particular, the statistics on domestic abuse, police brutality and violence against LGBTQ Americans involving guns are jarring and should remind all feminists that gun control is our issue, as much as reproductive rights and wage inequity are. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, it really is as simple as this: People who don’t care about your well-being don’t deserve the privilege of representing you.
Contrary to what rhetoric from Republican lawmakers might lead you to believe, mass shootings may be as tragic as natural disasters, but there is a clear distinction between these phenomena — mass shootings and gun violence are largely preventable. And even though these lawmakers may never take action, you can — by showing up to the polls on Election Day and voting them out of office.
Kylie Cheung is a sophomore majoring in journalism and political science. She is also the editorial director of the Daily Trojan. Her column,“You Do Uterus,” runs Thursdays.