On the horrific night of Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, the worst mass shooting in the history of the United States sent the country’s citizens reeling and struggling to understand why this disaster had occurred. In less than an hour, one man had left 58 people dead and nearly 500 injured.
This tragedy, though shocking, was decades in the making. It was never a question if such a massacre would happen, but—rather—when our country’s ill-conceived laws and misconceptions regarding firearms would finally reach a breaking point.
How could this happen?
The United States is the nation in which the most mass shootings occur in the world, according to a 2016 study conducted by the University of Alabama, yet it is only third in total population.
Additionally, as stated by data from an independent research organization called the Small Arms Survey—the U.S. has the most privately-owned guns per capita in the world. It also has the most total firearms by many millions.
Well, once you see the plain facts of American gun violence, the question of how the seeds of the Mandalay Bay Massacre were planted is easily answered: the exceptional way Americans idolize guns allows firearms to be in the hands of violent individuals.
A deadly obsession
For most Americans guns are cool; they have a sort of sexy, rough-and-tumble, John Wayne-esque appeal that speaks to the American national identity, but it is about time we—as a society—work to reform that identity.
So many Americans see the ideal citizen of their nation as a rugged individual, a freedom-fighter, and it is true that guns grant individuals tremendous power, but this image breeds violence. Yes, we are a nation born in conflict; however, that conflict stemmed from the injustice and unfairness of British rule centuries ago. We just need to move on.
Despite the typical American paranoia, the government is not going to begin cracking its whip as soon as stricter gun restrictions are passed. Our political system certainly has problems, but it is amazingly resilient when compared to any other country in the world. Even though it can be hard to believe at times, we do have a well-oiled democracy.
Fears are grossly misplaced
Another component of American individualism is pride in civil rights. It is puzzling to consider then that Americans refuse to yield any gun ownership rights after decades of increasingly costly mass shootings, yet they are perfectly willing to sacrifice their rights in the face of the relatively benign, infrequent threat of foreign terrorism.
Perhaps now, after such a thoroughly reported and abrupt showcase of the damage easy access to firearms has wrought, Americans will finally reassess their idolatry of guns.