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America the silent

Witnesses+of+he+shooting+in+Las+Vegas+walk+to+the+hospital+to+try+and+find+information+on+a+friend+%7C+Photo+courtesy+of+Gregory+Bull%2FAP
Witnesses of he shooting in Las Vegas walk to the hospital to try and find information on a friend | Photo courtesy of Gregory Bull/AP

Witnesses of he shooting in Las Vegas walk to the hospital to try and find information on a friend | Photo courtesy of Gregory Bull/AP

Witnesses of he shooting in Las Vegas walk to the hospital to try and find information on a friend | Photo courtesy of Gregory Bull/AP

By The Easterner, Editorial Board

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In the late hours of Oct. 1 on the Las Vegas Strip, a 64-year-old man began shooting from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel. He would continue firing for nearly 11 minutes, before law enforcement located him, and he committed suicide. At least 59 people were killed and over 500 were injured, the majority of which were attending the Route 91 Harvest, a three-day outdoor country music festival.

In the direct aftermath of a tragedy like this, politicians will urge citizens to mourn for the victims, and send out thoughts and prayers. Don’t get me wrong—thoughts and prayers are important. These victims and their families will never be the same after such a horrific event. But thoughts and prayers are not what we need most, but rather something to actually change.

Because the gun toll on America is simply too massive. In 2014, 11,961 Americans were killed in gunshot homicides, according to the F.B.I. That means the death rate from such homicides is 31 per million people. In all, 27 people are shot dead every day in the U.S. For reference: In Germany, the death rate from gun homicides is two per million people, or as common as being killed by a falling object in the US.

To take it a step further: If we were to wait the proper amount of time to mourn, we’d never get anything done. The Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as incidents where three or more people were shot, regardless if anyone was killed or not. So far there have been 274 days in 2017, and 273 mass shootings.

The worst part of the Las Vegas tragedy is the frequency. The most fatal mass shootings in modern US history are: Sandy Hook (2012), Virginia Tech (2007), Orlando (2016) and Las Vegas (2017). As college-age students, that means we have been alive for our country’s four worst mass shootings.

That is horrifying. In a way, though, they’re starting to feel a bit normal. And that’s not okay. Gun homicides aren’t supposed to be commonplace. But in America, they are.

When a tragedy like this occurs, the response from citizens is to tell each other “not to politicize” the event. This needs to stop. For some, when politics is brought up, an image of talking heads arguing nonsensically comes to mind. But we need to stop using ‘politicizing’ as some sort of slur.

Merriam-Webster defines “politics” as “the activities, actions and policies that are used to gain and hold power in a government.” Instead of thoughts and prayers, politicians should be focused on making definitive action. And citizens need to ensure their politicians do so. Politics are precisely what will enact change.

And there is a question that we all need to be asking ourselves — why is America the only Western nation with this problem of mass shootings?

Times like these are when we need to unite, not divide. By merely giving thoughts and prayers, we are doing our country a major disservice. Yes, we should mourn. But we also need to act.

 

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America the silent