Las Vegas shooting reinforces underlying issues in the country

Monday morning our country awoke to news that has become all too familiar. Sunday night a lone, cowardly, gunman opened fire on innocent concertgoers from the window of a Las Vegas hotel. The chaotic scene lasted for almost 10 minutes and by the time the police located the shooter, Stephen Paddock, at least 50 people were dead and hundreds more were injured in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

The violence was on a level that the United States of America has not yet seen, but to me it seems like a reoccurring nightmare, a dark déjà vu, that has plagued our country for years. The death toll was reminiscent of last year’s Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, which left 49 mothers and fathers mourning their children, and hundreds of young people traumatized for life. Sunday also marked two years since a student at a community college in Roseburg, Oregon murdered his professor and seven of his classmates.

As horrible as it sounds, only those directly affected by the shootings will carry the weight of the tragedy for the rest of their lives. We as unaffected, desensitized Americans are used to a moment of silence, a flag at half-mast and a hashtag of support for the people whose lives will never be the same. We pray that love will trump hate and the bad guys will stop killing the innocent ones, but we are powerless to the reality of our violent world and in the end, we can do little more than hope that those with the power to do something to stop the killing will act to save the lives of innocent American citizens.

At the White House this morning, President Trump praised the efforts of first responders before offering condolences to the families of those affected and declared the shooting “an act of pure evil.” He went on to quote scripture and invoke the common bonds of citizenship, family and love that define us, among other clichés that can be read from a teleprompter in the wake of a tragedy. The president’s speech was devoid of emotion and sympathy, but it also lacked a proper response to the situation; from a man who is often quick to blame others, this time there was no one to blame except a general “evil” in the world.

Trump’s somber speech this morning is a sharp contrast to his response to the Orlando shooting in June 2016. After reports that the shooter, Omar Mateen, had pledged allegiance to ISIS, Trump took to Twitter to push his political agenda and support his proposed travel ban on several predominantly-Muslim countries. “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness and vigilance,” the president tweeted the day after the shooting. Throughout the rest of his presidential campaign, Trump used the shooting in Orlando and the similar event in San Bernardino, CA to garner support for his so-called travel ban.

To me there is an obvious difference in the president’s response to these acts of terror. Trump will use tragedies when they can support his political agenda, but when a retired white man randomly decides to unload on a crowd of 22,000 from a hotel room filled with assault rifles, he has no one to blame but “evil.” Not only is Trump encouraging bias against other races and religions, he is endangering the lives of more of his citizens by not properly addressing the root of America’s violent nature.

As tragic as the shootings in Las Vegas and Orlando may seem, they are but a drop in the ocean of gun violence that floods the streets of major cities and rural towns alike. America’s gun violence did not start at Newtown, Columbine, or Virginia Tech, but has been a growing problem for decades. According to Politifact, since 1968 more U.S. citizens have died from gun violence than have died in every war all the way back to the Revolution. To embrace the full extent of gun violence in our country would mean perpetually mourning the mass killings that happen almost every day. We might as well lower the flag and cut off the top of the flagpole.

I am not here to erase the second amendment or to tread on any yellow snakes, but I am afraid of a world where mass shootings are just something that happens when too many people get together. I am afraid that attacks like those in Las Vegas will inspire more people to act out in terror because of their own personal or mental problems. I am afraid that politicians will ignore the greater issue of gun violence because it contradicts their political base or funding. I am afraid that the 59 innocent people that were massacred last Sunday at a concert will have died in vain if the problem of gun violence is not fixed. I am afraid that someday I will be walking to class or enjoying a concert and some deranged person I have never met will pull out a gun and kill me.

Peter is a junior majoring in journalism and English. What do you think can be done about gun violence in America? Please send any questions and concerns to opinion@dailycardinal.com.

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