Recent mass shootings reveal deadly consequences of rugged individualism

Content warning: The following article contains mentions of mass shootings and gun violence.

On May 24, the mass shooting tragedy that devastated the community of Uvalde, Texas left 19 students and two teachers dead — labeled by the New York Times as The Uvalde 21. 

Only a few weeks prior, 10-year-old Makenna Lee Elrod — one of the 19 student victims — gave her friend Chloe a friendship bracelet at the ballpark. Another victim, Xavier Lopez, had recently made the honor roll, and 10-year-old Jayce Luevanos shared a daily routine of brewing coffee for his grandfather as he did every morning. 

Just a few days after the Uvalde shooting, eight more mass shootings embraced headlines in America. Though what happened in Texas has shocked the country, our current mindsets and practices have done nothing but continue to aggravate an issue deeply ingrained in our nation. 

Given this trend, Americans should expect a few more mass shootings in the next week. After all, with what statistics have shown, mass shootings have become a daily routine in our country. It’s a sad reality that should not exist.

The current political climate of America grapples with a depressing irony surrounding the ongoing debates that boil down to choosing life or death. However, what ultimately fuels these debates, and the deadly consequences that manifest as mass shootings across the country, is our culture of rugged individualism.

Rugged individualism has previously manifested itself with the debate surrounding vaccines during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, rugged individualism is defined as “the combination of individualism and anti-statism … a prominent feature of American culture with deep roots in the country’s history of frontier settlement.” Though individualism can be beneficial for being a resourceful and innovative quality, it can also go against collective action that is often required for national and global issues.

Likewise, gun violence — a problem whose solutions require a collectivist mindset — must be approached in a similarly collective manner. However, the endemic American individualist mindset does little to further these efforts. 

Rugged individualism is inherently selfish, egocentric and illogically rooted in an outdated Second Amendment. The dire need to fulfill one’s wishes of gun possession is uniquely American, defined by a cultural reasoning that lacks the prioritization of community safety. Rather than making small sacrifices and allowing for the proper enforcement of established rules, many extreme individualists would rather hold onto their rifles and guns (namely assault rifles such as AR-15s and AK-47s). 

As a result, self-serving politicians and gun advocates propose ridiculous and ineffective gun laws in order to do anything but give up their guns. For instance, many extremists believe in arming teachers to defend their students in the face of an active shooter on campus, a piece of legislation that is already under consideration in Ohio and Louisiana. 

Gun advocates and extremists also love to spew the narrative of the “good guy with a gun” as reasoning for gun ownership. However, this reasoning has proved to be a myth time and time again amid continued mass shootings. In Uvalde, armed officers were waiting outside the school for over an hour while the shooter was inside the building. In the meantime, an unarmed mother ran into Robb Elementary School to save her children while the police did nothing.

Another illogical solution proposed by Texas Republican politicians in the wake of Uvalde involved a one-door policy in schools; simply being, one entrance and exit within a school building with armed officers at the door in order to regulate those who step into the school. However, expert opinions disagree with these politicians, arguing that such solutions are not “grounded in reality,” as stated in the Texas Tribune. 

All of the above solutions do nothing to minimize mass shootings. Instead, they normalize mass shootings as events expected to occur and provide illogical means of what to do in these cases, which will only result in more victims. Republican politicians that vote against valid gun control laws would rather create a dystopian society of armed school entrances and teachers rather than implement realistic and viable solutions to gun control. 

Solutions grounded in expert opinion and proven to work time and time again in different nations should be the approach American politicians take in order to solve this national health crisis. Even if that means sacrificing our individualistic approaches that we deem so integral to the American experience, creating and enforcing preventative measures should be our first priority in keeping our nation safe. 

Sensible gun laws that reduce the number of rifles that end up in the hands of irresponsible or dangerous individuals must be implemented. While this seems simple, straightforward and viable, many politicians have voted against gun laws in the past while coincidentally accepting large donations from major gun corporations. In countries like Israel and Norway where gun ownership is common, there are also strict regulations on guns, resulting in much fewer gun-related homicides and mass shootings.

While it remains no secret that the National Rifle Association plays a powerful role in shifting American politics, politicians should rightly and obviously do the moral thing and choose to support the people, rather than powerful gun lobbies. Rather than allowing money to infiltrate politics, Americans must hold these corporations accountable for their influential actions.

For those in an uproar claiming their rights are being infringed upon, sit down and shut up. The Second Amendment states, “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.” Emphasis on regulated. Gun control isn’t about denying access to firearms; it’s about protecting the community from unnecessary harm.

There have been over 240 mass shootings this year, and it is only June. With over 250 people killed and nearly 1,000 injured, how many more must die for us to take action?

While there are many effective and viable solutions that can be implemented, until Americans begin dropping the individualist mindset, compromises won’t come easily. While the ultimate goal is to reduce mass shootings and change America’s gun culture, we are also in desperate need for rugged individualism to fade. The time for community healing and collective action is now, before another national tragedy strikes.