So, the never-ending, never-changing, cycle continues. An evil person commits a nerve rattling shooting, a sizable number of lives are lost, we blame the weapon of choice, we call for gun control, we demand more resources for mental health, we memorialize the dead. Then we debate for a few days, and we resume our daily routines. This year, we have completed this cycle 17 times at a rate of one event every 13 days.
Our response to gun violence, be it a daily occurrence that takes the life of one or the occasional loss of multiple lives in a single incident, can be more disheartening than the actual crimes. We had just resumed normalcy after the Gilroy, Calif., festival shooting when two more group shootings occurred one week later. Nothing ever really changes but the names of the victims, victim totals and the location.
To date this year, there have been 102 lives taken by what we categorize as mass shootings. That averages out to six deaths per shooting. That keeps us talking. Less regarded or less shocking or less debate worthy are the on-average 1000 monthly homicides by gun that happen all across the country. Therein lies a problem.
We are selective when it comes to gun violence. If a life or two is taken here or there every day in cities and towns not our own, it barely gets a blip on our national radar. However, if a shooting occurs where a lone gunman snuffs out the lives of three or more in Hollywood movie fashion, we feign interest. Life then matters.
We must stop the charade that all life matters. That just is not true. When life really matters, we make lifesaving changes — immediately. The loss of a handful of lives per occasional shooting event generates nothing more than political banter and water cooler chatter. Not even the rare domestic terrorist shooting that takes out 50 lives makes us demand real change.
Numbers don’t lie. We have not had a mass shooting with a sizable enough number of victims to affect real change. If the number of victims is not big enough, even if the majority of victims are children, nothing substantial happens.
The real problem is not guns. Gun ownership is just an easy target. We have over 330 million citizens and roughly that many legally owned guns. Only a handful of guns and a handful people are killing a small number of people per year. Not enough people are using enough guns to kill enough people to make us truly value all human.
When 3000 lives were taken in a single day 18 years ago, we were shaken to our core. And changes to our daily lives were made. Even some ridiculous changes were made, but we reacted in record fashion. Three-thousand lives taken in a short time matter. Thirty-three thousand lives taken over the course of a year, not so much. Of that 33,000-annual deaths by gun total, only 12,000 are by homicide. Is that really enough to demand change, especially of one industry specifically?
Numbers don’t lie. Too much revenue is generated by the arms industry to expect any major departure from its normal operations. Billions and billions of dollars are generated each year by gunmakers. Millions and millions more dollars are generated by ancillary businesses, like security, proactive and reactive training and equipment. We need not keep kidding ourselves. Dollars definitely matter; life, not always so.
Not until there is a single shooting event that generates a death toll 20 times the total of the Las Vegas massacre are we going to realize individual and collective change. Until such a tragedy happens, we will just keep talking about it. And writing about it.