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Thursday, May 13, 2021

Tragedy is a warm gun


Sarai Lara, 16, cancer survivor.

Shayla Martin, 52, makeup artist.

Belinda Galde, 64, a probation officer and daughter.

Beatrice Dotson, 95, Galde’s mother.

Chuck Eagan, 61, Boeing maintenance worker who took a bullet for his wife.

These are the names of the people killed in the Cascade Mall shooting in Burlington, Washington on Friday, Sept. 23. The shooter, 20-year-old Arcan Cetin, was arrested Saturdayevening in Oak Harbor, Washington, after being caught on surveillance cameras and identified by eyewitnesses.

After reading about the shooting, you will learn the shooter was not allowed to possess guns due to a former domestic violence charge. At this point then, one might ask themselves: How did it get that far?

Good question.

As a society, we need to acknowledge this question. The Cascade Mall shooter took the gun from a family member, someone who likely knew the shooter wasn’t supposed to possess one.

One thousand, three hundred and fifty nine lives have been lost in 2016 due to intentional gun violence in a public place. According to a 2016 study by EveryTown Research, about 38 percent of this year’s shooters were not legally supposed to possess a gun. Somehow they got their hands on one, and sometimes they got their hands on multiple.

Something is wrong here. How many lives lost will it take for us to do more than send thoughts and prayers? How many miles away from home does it have to be for us to realize we have a problem with gun violence in our society? We are becoming desensitized to mass shootings. Each one is the same as the last, and when there are so many, each human life is reduced to a statistic.

There are not only multiple flaws in the way we as Americans see guns but in the system we use to sell guns as well. The sentiment offered on either side of the argument yields similar flaws.

Gun ownership has become sacred to millions of Americans over the last few hundred years and evolved into an ideal people see as so crucial and worthy of respect that it has somehow become immune to criticism. Some — not all — gun owners can quite literally be up-in-arms about their right to own a gun, waving the United States Constitution in your face if you even think about mentioning gun laws of a more rigid nature.

Owning a gun isn’t a ridiculous notion — in fact, there are completely sound arguments in favor of ownership; family protection, hunting and sport are examples. However, because of a flawed system conveniently conducive to fledgling killers, people like Omar Mateen, who in June killed 50 people in an Orlando nightclub with firearms he purchased legally, slip through the cracks.

People calling for progress when it comes to stricter gun laws — implementing mental health evaluations, safety and skill tests or background checks before purchase — aren’t trying to enact gun prohibition. They are simply trying to make purchasing a gun as difficult as, say, obtaining a driver’s license.

Being American shouldn’t be the only prerequisite for gun ownership. An individual’s criminal record and/or mental health issues should be carefully contemplated by sellers. The base of the argument here is some see gun ownership as a right, not a privilege, while others see it as a privilege, not a right.

It’s true laws, such as enforcing background checks and mental health evaluations, won’t stop someone on a mission to kill, but it’s harder to walk into a Macy’s and kill five innocent people with a knife than with a rifle. A popular sentiment is “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” but unfortunately, many of those people’s weapon of choice is a military-grade assault rifle or a family member’s handgun.

The fact of the matter is, laws that require mental health evaluations and background checks before a gun purchase or laws that eliminate loopholes (such as gun shows, where background checks aren’t necessary) could save a life — whether it’s reducing the number of accidental gun deaths or making it one step more difficult to obtain a weapon of mass murder.

Hundreds of thousands of gun owners in the United States are responsible owners — luckily, they wouldn’t be hindered by these extra steps. However, there are some owners who aren’t as responsible, thereby allowing a large portion of mass shooters to get their hands on guns.

What do we as a society do to make these laws a reality? Like most social issues, the solution starts on the ballot. A perfect example on the Washington State ballot this November is Initiative 1491, which, according to The Seattle Times, “sets up a court procedure for a judge to issue extreme-risk protection orders to temporarily prevent someone from accessing firearms if there is demonstrated evidence the person is a danger.” Voting yes on this initiative can open both a dialogue on and a door to important laws that could save lives.

By participating in local and national elections, lobbying for laws of importance and writing to legislators, the masses can change the attitude the nation has toward guns.

It may not be necessary to hold them so close to our hearts or our hips.



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