You’ve read this editorial before.
It’s been more than 20 years since more than a dozen people were killed in Columbine High School in Columbine, Colo., by two shooters bent on nothing more than destruction.
This December, it’ll be the 10-year anniversary of more than two dozen children — children — gunned down in a similarly horrific fashion in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
And just this week, 18 more children between grades 2 and 4 had their lives cut short by the monstrous acts of another shooter, this time at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
In fact, according to NPR, the school shooting in Texas this week was the 27th mass shooting to take place at a U.S. school in 2022 alone. And that’s only school shootings; the same NPR piece reports that there have been 212 mass shootings over all this year.
You probably haven’t even heard about all of them.
It almost isn’t even heartbreaking anymore; it’s just numbing. Sometimes it seems as though we, as a country, have just resigned ourselves to the fact that, every time we step outside our front door to go to work, or school, or the movies, or a mall, or a concert or a nightclub, we might be shot and killed for no particular reason by someone armed to the teeth with assault rifles.
And it’s clear that this is a uniquely American problem.
A 2018 article from CNN showed that, between 2009 and the date of that article’s publication, 288 school shootings occurred in the United States. Over that same period, CNN reported, only two occurred in both Canada in France, one in Germany, and none in Japan, Italy or the United Kingdom.
While those numbers are obviously four years old at this point, it still shows a disturbing trend: that this is something that only happens here.
Why? A seemingly obvious answer is that guns are simply much, much more common in the United States than they are anywhere else on earth. Data reported by the BBC this week shows that the United States has a higher rate of citizen gun ownership than any other country. The data shows there are more than 120 guns in America for every 100 Americans.
The guns outnumber us here, and that’s not true anywhere else. Yemen, the country with the second highest rate of citizen gun ownership, only has about 53 guns for every 100 people, the BBC’s reporting shows.
In the same article, the BBC also reported that Americans use guns in homicides at a far higher rate than other countries. According to them, nearly 80% of all homicides in the United States in the year 2020 involved a gun. Meanwhile, only 4% of homicides in the United Kingdom involved a gun that year.
And every time this happens, editorial boards around the country will plead with our lawmakers to do something about it. We’ll write an editorial, such as this one, where we plug in the newest data which shows that gun violence is a uniquely American phenomenon, and we’ll beg our lawmakers to do something to stem the tide of the bloodshed.
But, inevitably, these arguments will become lost in counterarguments.
“The problem isn’t guns; it’s that kids grow up playing violent video games,” some will say, ignoring the fact that one can just as easily buy and play the latest “Call of Duty” game in England as they can here in Virginia, yet the rate of gun violence is higher in the U.S.
“The problem isn’t guns; it’s irresponsible gun ownership,” some will say, ignoring the fact that laws surrounding responsible gun ownership could become much stricter; most guns don’t have to be registered with the commonwealth here, but your car sure does.
“The problem isn’t guns; it’s an ongoing mental health crisis,” some will say, ignoring the fact that this argument suggests there should be a push for an expansion of mental health services nationwide. Expanding the funding for mental health treatment seems like an important step for our country, not only in preventing tragedies such as these, but in improving the overall well-being of the citizenry. So why don’t we make that happen, either?
The worst argument, though, is this one: “Now isn’t the time to talk about this; we can’t make these deaths political when they’re still so fresh.”
There was only 10 days between the mass shooting in Buffalo, N.Y., and the devastation in Texas this week. If we, as a nation, wait for the dust to settle after a shooting before we can have a serious discussion about gun violence, we will never stop waiting. There will always be another mass shooting, just around the corner.
And after the next one, there will be more editorials like this one, pleading for something to be done. Something should have been done legislatively in 1999 after Columbine, or in 2012 after Sandy Hook. But nothing happened.
And it seems likely nothing will happen this time, either.