Thoughts on the Tragedy in Orlando

First and foremost, our hearts, prayers and condolences go out to all of our fellow brothers and sisters in Orlando who have been directly or indirectly impacted by the mass shooting at Pulse. This tragedy has left parents without children, survivors struggling to understand just what happened, and in some cases, both coping with the guilt of their own survival. I cannot begin to offer any advice on how to overcome the type of grief that the Pulse victims and their families are experiencing. I do, however, think there are some obvious identifiable issues that we as a country must deal with in regard to the mass shooting.

PulseI’m not offering up anything new, but it seems as though we as a country, at the very least, would not want a person recently investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigations for suspected ties to terrorist organizations to be able to purchase semi-automatic weapons without obstacles. It is time for some restrictions on the purchase of firearms. Believing in your right to buy and bear arms, as I do, is not inconsistent with desiring meaningful regulations on the sale of said arms. As we struggle with formulating legislation that will prevent mass shootings of the type that have occurred at Pulse, Sandy Hook, and Virginia Tech while staying true to our Constitution and national ideals, our country’s leaders must accepts these facts:

  1. Adam Lankford, an associate professor at the University of Alabama Department of Criminal Justice who studied mass shooting around the world from 1966 to 2012, found that countries with higher rates of gun ownership recorded more mass shooters per capita.
  2. According to the Small Arms Survey 2011, a Geneva-based research project that collects information on small arms, Americans own more guns per capita than any other country in the world, followed by Yemen.
  3. Prof. Lankford also found that America had 5% of the world’s population but accounted for 31% of mass shootings. He defines a mass shooting as one where there were at least four victims.
  4. Mass shooters are much more likely to strike at workplaces or schools. This means that Americans have a far greater chance of being in a mass shooting at work or school, rather than at home.
  5. On average, a mass shooter brings four guns with them to carry out the massacre. The Orlando shooter had two.

There are many common sense steps we as a country can take to address these facts with regulation. Background checks and waiting periods are two regulations that most Americans can agree make our country safer without infringing on the Second Amendment.

In regards to the shooting in Orlando, it is evident that there must be more communication between surveillance agencies and the ATF. It is common sense that if your names are on any watch lists, you should not be able to buy firearms. While the Orlando shooter was no longer on these lists, the very fact that he had been should have put him on some kind of hold. The FBI should have been alerted and been able to give more information about whether or not he should have access.  And, if the FBI was alerted, as is now being reported, it should have immediately acted upon the information provided. 

Many politicians suggest the U.S. should mimic gun control laws seen in European countries.  Jaclyn Schildkraut, of the State University of New York in Oswego, sadly warns that these measures may not work in the U.S. “Our culture of violence is such that our needs are not the same” she states. And she would be correct about our culture at least. We must not forget that beneath most of these shootings laid homophobia, racism, and hatred for women who exercised their right to choose. Regulation can only do so much if our culture of violence is to remain the same.  With that said, I sincerely believe, we can do more and better as a country to protect our citizens against the type of mass shooting that took the lives of so many sons and daughters in Orlando, Florida. 

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