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An Americana death, part II

On Tuesday, at least a hundred gunshots were heard at Rancho Tehama Elementary School in Northern California, where four were killed and two were injured, and all the while America shrugged. This tragedy was most recently preceded by a shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas that claimed the lives of at least 26 community members. In total, thirty lives were lost in the course of a week. While the shooting in Sutherland Springs attracted large-scale media coverage, the nation has largely been silent in the aftermath of Tuesday’s shooting. It seems that for the most part, for most of the country, the elementary school shooting simply never occurred. 

We are not entirely at fault for failing to voice our prayers in the aftermath of this recent tragedy. The media, which sent bursts of breaking news notifications about the shootings in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, did not do the same for Rancho Tehama Elementary. However, this lack of outrage over Rancho Tehama stems from an issue deeper than the dearth of media coverage. Many of us are simply exhausted. Only forty-some days after the worst mass shooting in recent history, we cannot fathom being reminded yet again how commonplace these horrendous tragedies have become in our country. 

Mass shootings are not the sole gun-related issue. Gun violence is ubiquitous, prevalent in urban settings and domestic violence cases. Many women’s rights advocates in fact consider gun-control to be a women’s issue given that domestic violence often results in gun-related deaths for women. Some sources report that nearly 50 women “are shot to death by former or current partners” each month. A national focus centered on identifying scapegoats in the aftermath of mass shootings—lack of regulation, mental illness, parental neglect, etc.—completely masks the reality that individuals are dying every day as a result of all forms of gun violence. Unfortunately, it seems that if the number of concurrent deaths does not pass a certain threshold, we almost never hear about them in the media. 

The data on lives lost to gun violence in all of its forms is staggering. As we have commented on in the past, there is no simple solution to ending gun violence, but bringing experts to the table and debating policy is essential to approaching some semblance of a solution. But as many politicians have pointed out, politicizing issues in the wake of tragedies can be disrespectful to those in mourning. The problem is that we seem to be in a perpetual grieving period. While we can try to wait until people are finished mourning in the aftermath of each tragedy before we act, we will never find a proper time to do so given the prevalence of gun violence in this country. That is essence of the problem. Epidemics must be stymied as they happen, before the next great gun tragedy manifests itself. 

Over the past few centuries, our national identity has become inexplicably linked to blazing guns, and the “right to bear arms” has become glorified as a quintessential American legal right. However, some would argue that in our pursuit to defend the Second Amendment, we have forgotten a much more important human right: the right to life. As Duke students, we should research and advocate for solutions to ending this epidemic of gun violence. We should demand more from our leaders every day, and not just in the days immediately following mass shootings. The cost of complacency and inaction has become far too high.


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