Massacre Hits Close to Home

By Shirley Gallegos
 
July 28: Gilroy, California, community festival–3 dead, 12 injured.
August 3: El Paso, Texas, Walmart–20 dead, more than 26 injured.
August 4: Dayton, Ohio, nightclub area– 10 dead, 26 injured.
 
3 massacres within the span of 9 days.
 
Once again, Americans grieve, vigils are held and promises are made to stop gun violence in the United States.
 
Since 1999, the pace of mass deaths at the hands of gunmen has increased.
 
There have been more than 110 mass shootings in the US since 1982, according to investigative magazine Mother Jones.
 
Despite the recent, very effective public appeal by the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, nothing has been done to curb gun violence nationally. In fact, today the U.S. has more guns than people. We have more guns than any other country in the world– by far. Over 40% of households own guns, and more people, including those 18 to 29 years of age, are supporting gun rights over gun control.
 
Last weekend, Democrats in Congress urged lawmakers to cancel the August recess and stay in Washington, D.C., to pass legislation on gun control. Yet, there is no public consensus about what will make a difference. Clearly, states cannot do it alone. The shooter in Gilroy, California, bought the assault rifle in Nevada. 
 
In most of these shootings, the perpetrator is a young man. What is driving their behavior? Many had no criminal record or history of mental illness prior to the shooting. So, how can these killings be prevented?
 
In the massacre closest to New Mexico, the shooter went hundreds of miles from Allen, Texas, to El Paso with the deliberate purpose of killing Hispanics. And why a Walmart during a school shopping day? This person’s activity online prior to the incident indicated that he was communicating on a website that encourages gun violence against “the other.” This domestic terrorist, like many other young men around the world, was being radicalized by a toxic mix of testosterone, religion, guns and a search for victims to blame for their failings or to carve a name for themselves among their peers.
 
In many cases, we may never know why these crimes were committed, but we can take a lesson on curbing gun violence from the actions used to make smoking less attractive. 
 
Over 50 years, this unhealthy habit changed from being promoted as “sexy” in movies, to being a public health hazard. This happened because of several factors simultaneously: scientific evidence, public relations counter-campaigns, victims’ lawsuits against cigarette manufacturers, changing laws and increasing taxes. The change happened over several generations. It was sustained and is continuing even today as manufacturers move to “vaping” to push addiction to nicotine.
 
In the end, what we know is that nothing will change under Republicans who are supported by the donor class and lobbyists. The National Rifle Association, whose
reputation has been battered by ties to Russia and infighting, remains a strong foe. What hope we the people have on the legislative front lies in making sure both the House and the Senate have a Democratic majority, and that we elect a Democrat as president. And, as communities, we must instill from birth the values of love, hope and charity and actively oppose bullying and other negative traits at a young age.