Las Vegas shooting A 64-year-old white male unleashed fire at a Las Vegas country music festival on the evening of Oct. 1, killing at least 59 and injuring at least 525--creating the largest mass shooting in the modern history of the United States.
Following the attack, waves of media reports on how yet another shooting has horrified the United States flooded the Internet. Numerous media outlets attempted to quantify or rationalize the shooting--as media outlets always do after a horrible tragedy. Business Insider published a study about how 1 in 15,325 people are likely to die in a mass shooting and 1 in 370 are likely to die by assault by gun--making gun violence one of the leading causes of death in the United States.
Newsweek released a report that since 1982, 54% of mass shootings were committed by white males, leading people like criminologist James Alan Fox to make statements like, “There’s a feeling of entitlement that white men have that black men don’t.” The article seemed to suggest that institutionalized racism and male fragility producing an innate need to compensate for a societal loss could be behind mass shootings.
After all, it would help explain some previous mass shootings, such as when white supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine African Americans on June 17, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. The Hill released a piece headlined, “After mass shootings, mental illness is always the scapegoat.” House Speaker Paul Ryan only validated this headline with the Oct. 3 statement, “Mental-health reform is the critical ingredient to making sure that we can try and prevent some of these things that have happened in the past.”
Former President Barack Obama suggested similar sentiments last year, referring to how to prevent shootings like the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Nonetheless, The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology released a study in 2014 that analyzed convicted murderers of single- and multiple-victim killings. Solely 18% of convicted murders had a serious mental-illness diagnosis.
The weak connection between mental illness and mass shootings is only further proven by the fact that the Las Vegas shooter did not have “a bit” of mental-illness history, according to his brother. In fact, always linking mental illness to homicides invalidates the stability and health capacity of those who have legitimate mental illnesses. While all of the aforementioned articles made critical points about gun violence, numerous articles were additionally released, urging Congress to take action--for once. Vice released a piece titled, “The 12 Most Absurd Arguments Against Gun Control After Vegas,” while The New York Times released a piece called, “America Used to Be Good at Gun Control. What Happened?”
On the other hand, The New York Times also published an article that reflect how Democrats consistently try to take action after mass shootings, pushing forward “common-sense” gun restrictions. They have attempted targeting weapons themselves and altering U.S. policy on possession, the process of attaining a gun, and more. However, they are consistently met with Republican recalcitrant push-back. Republican Majority Leader and Senator Mitch McConnell made a statement that it is premature to be discussing legislative solutions, and California Representative Linda Sanchez told the New York Times that the Democrats “are stuck.”
Action on gun control is even less likely with Donald Trump as president. Not only is he a symbol of the Republican pro-second amendment platform, but the National Rifle Association, a vast pro-gun ownership interest group spent an estimated $30 million on getting Trump elected, ensuring where his loyalties will most likely lie throughout his presidency. Gun control advocates may also not be able to push through Congress anytime soon because of the way that Congress is structured. Congressional districts are drawn in a way so that there are more “safe” seats for Republicans, according to a recent BBC article.
In addition, there are more rural districts--which are less likely to be affected by inner-city, gun-induced violence. Finally, the difficulty that comes with amending the Constitution and its amendments leaves the second amendment impervious to change--especially with previous Supreme Court decisions upholding the amendment’s validity and initial intent. The singular shred of hope within the post-Las Vegas shooting wave of media lied within a ProPublica article, titled “How the Gun Control Debate Ignores Black Lives.” While the title does not seem to offer potential solutions to the growing issue of gun violence, it discusses the organization Ceasefire, a strategy that attempted to lower the number of Black children who are affected by gun violence.
Through Ceasefire, police forces in Boston--the city where it was developed--identified youths who were most likely to be at risk to gun violence. Authorities worked with the at-risk children, offered support, and discussed how to diminish the risk that they are exposed to. Boston’s youth homicides dropped by 63% just two years after its initial launch, deeming it “effective,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
All in all, the discourse and statistics surrounding gun violence is rather grim--especially as gun violence appears to be a perpetual issue. But, if Congress would be willing to implement more programs like Ceasefire, there is some light at the end of an especially dark tunnel.