Joseph Spirk is an economics major with a concentration in mathematics. He is a guest writer from Dayton, Ohio.
On August 4th at 1:05 a.m., a masked gunman armed with an AR-15-style assault rifle and a 100-round drum magazine stormed through the historic Oregon District of Dayton, Ohio. In less than 32 seconds, the 24-year-old gunman was able to claim the lives of nine innocent victims and wound another 27 others. Just 14 hours earlier, a gunman in El Paso, Texas, claimed the lives of 22 people and wounded another 27 others, which is now under investigation as an act of domestic terrorism and as a possible hate crime.
With the Dayton shooting being the 250th mass shooting in the United States this year, we routinely hear from politicians and figures in the media how everyone is eventually touched in some way by a mass shooting. After the Dayton shooting, I have come to realize what that truly means. I would have never imagined that someone who I went to high school with, and even had a class with, would carry out the largest mass shooting the Dayton region has ever seen. Not to mention that he would end up murdering his own sister, who I also had a class with and would occasionally interact with.
In the days following the shooting, I was still in shock and disbelief with what had happened in the Oregon District. It was only a few weeks prior that my friends and I had been down in the Oregon District at the Toxic Brew Company, a popular late-night brewery and bar and went shopping at local favorites such as Heart Mercantile and Luna’s. What if I had been in one of the bars in the Oregon District that night? What if I had been one of the many people walking the streets when the shooting occurred? I can’t help but feel like I am one of the lucky ones, and fate ended up being on my side. Sadly, many other people there that night could not say the same.
Despite there being a plethora of other mass shootings long before the Dayton shooting, this one struck especially close to home. How could a kid that I went to high school with end up acquiring such lethal weapons? I had always heard of other mass shootings in the news and would always think, “That’ll never happen here in Dayton.” After the shooting, I had many emotions that I experienced related to what had just transpired, but more so than anything I was angry. Why is it that the United States more than any other nation on the planet has the most mass shootings? What can we do as a country to prevent more mass shootings? There is no doubt that there are many factors that contribute to individuals carrying out such devastating attacks.
However, we simply cannot just sit back and hope for the problem to disappear on its own. Bringing more awareness to the struggles of mental illness is a first step in the right direction that could possibly help solve the problem. However, this method relies on people actively seeking treatment, and there is no guarantee for this. Another option is to reintroduce an assault weapons ban similar to the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, but was never renewed and expired in 2004. However, given the large amount of assault weapons currently in civilian hands, it only takes one person to acquire an assault weapon and carry out another deadly mass shooting.
There still remains many solutions to help solve this complicated problem, but one thing all of these solutions rely on is the activism and effort that goes into coming up with ideas and their feasibility. We as a nation cannot be afraid to talk about a subject such as gun violence and what steps we can take to prevent another horrific tragedy. I firmly believe that when we all get together and share ideas, we can come to viable solutions. Gun violence is an endemic that affects all of us. Please don’t let your town be the next town you see plastered on news headlines. Join in the activism and encourage your leaders to do something.