In America, It’s Business as Usual

Although there is a tremendous feeling of sadness and grief over the most recent American mass-shooting, there isn’t a feeling of surprise. Over the past two years, there have been over 10 mass shootings in America. With every tragedy there is a hopeful moment where Americans wipe their tears and console themselves by saying, at least now something will be done. But at this point, as disturbing as it is to say, Americans are more likely to watch in horror as another mass-shooting takes place as they are to witness common sense gun reform.

Here are three things that should change in America but won’t, in light of the tragedy in Las Vegas:

1. Changes to gun laws. America is arguably the most relaxed developed country in the world when it comes to gun regulations. In Nevada, the scene of the most recent devastation, there is no waiting period to purchase a gun, open carry is allowed, semi-automatic weapons are legal, and there is no limit to how many guns or how much ammunition a single person can possess. While there have been attempts to pass stricter gun laws, for a variety of reasons, there has still been no concrete changes. From 2011 to 2016 Congress tried to pass 100 different gun control proposals, but not a single one went through. This could be because of America’s deep love for guns and their obsession with their 2nd Amendment right, the deep pockets of the NRA and other gun lobby groups, or the contradictory fear that Americas now face (I need to get more guns to protect myself from all the guns.) Regardless of the reason, America is not about to change its gun laws. Guns are an American right. Not health care. Just guns.

2. Changes to the way mental health is treated and discussed. In America, it is reported that 1 in 5 adults has a mental illness, and out of that number, a staggering 56% do not get treatment. There are a number of factors that can explain why American’s don’t get treatment for their mental illnesses, but stigma and access are at the top of the list. The way mental illness is continuously stigmatized in America and pawned off as a weakness or as an imagined sickness makes it harder for those suffering to reach out for help. And if they do reach out? 22.9 % of individuals who suffer from a mental illness reported that they couldn’t get the help they needed because of cost. Even if folks have health insurance, (17% of Americans with a mental illness do not have coverage) many insurance plans do not cover mental health treatments. Each state in America ranks differently in terms of the accessibility to mental health treatment, but guess which one came in dead last? Nevada.

3. Changes to the way we talk about white terrorists. In America, white people are “lone wolves.” They “listen to country music”. When they target and murder 9 Black Americans at church they are called “troubled” or when they enter a movie theater and shoot dozens of people they are described as “a typical American kid.” Where is the term terrorist? Why aren’t they depicted as dangerous or a menace or a threat? In America, terrorists are only black or brown. If a man planning on executing a murderous rampage from a hotel window isn’t a terrorist, then what is? To restrict the vocabulary of terrorism to black or brown skin in America perpetuates the false notion that whiteness equates to goodness In America, if a person of color commits a horrific act, they are behaving in a way that is typical of their race or religion, but when a white person does it, they are an anomaly, a “lone wolf”, a sick individual.

Sunday’s killing spree was the most deadly in recent American history, and it will hold that morbid title until the next mass shooting. These attacks have been getting more violent, more senseless, and sadly, more common place. Those in power in America sit back and throw their hands up and feign helplessness. They act like shooters and the environments that create them are a part of life like the weather.  They sit and they wait for the next attack and the next and the next. They keep their thoughts and prayers ready, like a trigger-happy finger on a semi-automatic weapon.

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