PERSPECTIVE: America’s history with mass shootings

The terrible decisions made in the aftermath

Photo courtesy of ABC News | Guest Writer Ryan Spolar talks about America’s gun violence history and the reactions that led us to where we are now.

I was not shocked to hear about the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14. Why should I be? I saw 58 fellow Americans get mercilessly gunned down in October at a concert in Las Vegas and then 26 more a month later at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

No changes were made in that time, so why would it be surprising that more of our citizens are being killed in these terrible tragedies? Did anyone really think mass shootings would end on their own?

Our responses are unfortunately always the same. This may seem controversial, but thoughts and prayers are not going to change this cycle of mass shootings. It’s a great idea to want to comfort those affected, but something more comforting would be legislative action, or universal reinforcement of existing laws.

The debate over how to end mass shootings has ended in the United States. It ended after 30 people were killed at a college in Virginia. It ended after five police officers were gunned down at a rally in Dallas. It ended after 20 first-graders and six faculty members were killed in a grade school in Connecticut. We have chosen to do nothing and these new shootings are just consequences of our inaction and negligence. Schools come up with new active shooter training, and law enforcement tries to come up with quicker response times.

I keep seeing headlines addressing current students as the “mass shooting generation.” I wonder what future generations will be called since the problem is getting worse. Five out of the 10 top mass shootings in U.S. modern history have taken place since 2015: San Bernardino, Orlando, Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs and Stoneman Douglas. While it is true that there have been these types of massacres throughout the middle and later part of the 20th century, they have never been so consistent, and the death count has not been so high.

Although this endless stream of mass shootings may have multiple causes, there is a unique and similar feature of each: the fact that citizens are walking into locations of our daily lives and killing people with guns designed, and sometimes upgraded, to kill as quickly and as many as possible. Unfortunately, the solution is not so simple.

Studies estimate that there are more than 280 million guns in the hands of the U.S. population. It’s also not that more people are getting guns, it’s that gun owners are purchasing more guns. A buy-back program like the one Australia enacted after its mass shooting in 1996 would never be successful here. Guns are inherent to America; they are as American as apple pie. I believe that any legislation we do enact would not change anything for quite a few years, even decades. Politicians say it’s a mental health problem while simultaneously pulling back existing mental health policies.

This problem exists nowhere else in the world to the degree that it does in the U.S. It is a unique problem to our country. But we, as a country, have given up solving this issue. As soon as a shooting happens in this country certain sides tell you not to politicize and of course, gun sales usually go up.

I wonder if it is time to politicize Columbine, have we waited long enough before “politicizing it?” Children dying in school is a political issue for me. We are OK with children dying at school, with people dying at work, with people dying at their places of worship while we sit back and do nothing. We don’t try to put in more metal detectors, we don’t hire more counselors and we certainly do not enact any gun safety legislation or reinforcement of already existing legislation. We are failing and history will not judge us kindly.

We are divorced from reality if we believe this will get better without action. We have normalized mass shootings.

Ryan Spolar is a junior Honors Bachelor of Arts major and guest writer for the Newswire from Cleveland, Ohio.