Las Vegas: Why Condolences Aren’t Enough

Annette Ungermann, Opinion Editor

The nation seems to breathe, like clockwork, a collective sigh after every mass shooting. While focus shifts from grief to 2nd amendment rights in the matter of a news cycle, perhaps the best questions to ask aren’t regarding the validity of left versus right arguments on gun control. Rather, why is this tragedy so routine that it has become the platform upon which to further divide our nation?

The cyclical nature of mass shooting, to condolences, to gun rights, to legislative standstill speaks volumes. While our country sits back to mourn year after year and tragedy after tragedy, we waste precious time in parroting the same arguments and hearing the same refutations, locking our nation into a deadly stalemate. Liberals plead for increased regulations, anything to diminish death by a fraction, while conservatives plead right back to conserve necessary liberties.

The deadliest mass shooting in modern American history in Las Vegas is no different.

Still, of course, comes a classic argument: why must the nation pay for the cruel acts of thoughtless individuals with access to machine guns? What about the countless individuals with regard for human life that see owning firearms as a necessity for their livelihood?

But yes, we must pay. And we do, with each life that’s taken by abusing this constitutional right.

If we are to fully pay for the consequences of giving all individuals firearms with unchecked power, then we must stomach the fact that 2nd amendment rights have adapted with technology to be about more than self-defense. With the power to exterminate comes the responsibility to not do so, and if Americans are unwilling to wake up and smell the assault rifles, then we are doomed to repeat this repetitive argument until the next catastrophe.

But still, we offer our prayers, our sensitive tweets, and sympathetic emojis. Because if Americans can unite on anything, it’s demonstrative grief.

While these efforts are well-intentioned, heartfelt attempts to elevate the national conversation rather than focus on divisiveness, they fall flat. Any hope for real change or compromise between political parties withers with each social media post. We may pray, but we are not shocked or outraged about mass shootings, not enough to spur action. This national routine of ours is well-worn and tiring. Condolences do not, by any means, indicate a political shift.

As Republicans often believe that their stance on guns is fundamental to American identity, and the National Rifle Association (NRA) keeps a strong hold on American politics, the hopes for American gun control improving in the wake of tragedy is slim. Though public support for increased regulation on firearms spikes after mass shootings, according to CNN, the reality is Republicans dominate all three branches of government.

So, while we grieve and battle over ideals – again – we widen the separation between political parties in our responses to tragedy, whether it’s through the defense of political ideologies or protests of them. And hope for more liberal change dies with those in Columbine, Sandy Hook, Orlando, or Las Vegas.

With each tragedy, Democrats hope that this can spur the country into action as if, with more deaths, the more convincing their argument will be. The more jaw-dropping the statistics are, perhaps conservatives will be more willing to put what rights they believe to be fundamental to the side.

According to Vox, America has had 1,500 mass shootings in the past 5 years, half of all civilian-owned guns in the world with only 4.4% of the population, and 29.7 gun-related homicides per million people (4 to 21 times more than every other developed country in the world). The problem is crystal clear.

It is no coincidence that we have the most homicides and the most guns.

However imperfectly, through increased gun regulations, statistics will drop. According to The New York Times, public health experts believe with well-written, specific regulations on guns, gun-related deaths could decrease as a whole by 1/3, saving approximately 10,000 lives per year.

And yet, statistics and simple truth never seem to be enough.

If gun ownership is believed to be fundamental to the American way of life, then rather than focusing on what legislation says, we must recognize why it says what it does. In 1787, Americans included the 2nd amendment to protect themselves from their government. As a society, we have advanced past this motive, as has the technology. We must meet in the middle between no modifications and complete repeal to adapt with the times.

Still, we resist, and so do our representatives.

Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana said, “I don’t think our problem in America is gun laws. I think criminals obey gun laws like politicians keep promises. And I just hate to see this issue politicized. I don’t know why bad things happen to good people, but they do in this world, and what happened in Las Vegas was terrible. But we can’t legislate away every problem in the world.”

And so the vicious cycle continues. When, America, is our wake up call? When will we realize that politicizing a tragedy is the only way to do anything about it?

Until that day comes, I offer my condolences to the entire country. May we one day live in a world where sympathy is enough.

For now, I will be waiting, along with Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, for Congress to “get up off it’s ass” and do something.