Within a span of 10 days, we as a nation experienced two senseless mass shootings that took the lives of more than 30 people—including elderly women who were shopping in a neighborhood grocery store and little children gunned down by an 18-year-old in their classroom. As we move from one killing to the next—whether it is a “mass shooting” or lives lost one by one from gun violence; whether in the form of homicide or suicide—we have to ask ourselves: Why is this happening? What should be done to prevent it?
I think we all know the answer. In fact, countries like our own the world over know the answer and have taken action by enacting effective gun control policies. America is awash in guns: Americans make up approximately 4.4% of the world’s population but own a whopping 42% of the world’s guns. Guns account for 79% of all homicides in the U.S. By comparison: 37% of homicides in Canada, 13% in Australia and 4% in the U.K. are deaths by guns. Why does owning a gun, especially an assault weapon created expressly to kill people, trump the right of little children not to be killed as they attend school or grandmothers to safely shop for groceries? Why do we tolerate seeing endless scenes of grieving families?
I can’t tell you the sadness I felt when I heard about the racially motivated massacre in Buffalo and the senseless slaughter of innocent children in Uvalde, Texas. But I also feel angry at our political leaders who can’t seem to protect us from this senseless carnage. All of us have to denounce white supremacy and demand effective gun control solutions. We also have to advocate for a properly funded and accessible mental health care system. Ways in which you can take action include voting and contacting your representatives at the state and federal levels to share your opinion on legislation that might prevent tragedies such as this.
Please know that if you are struggling or need support processing these horrific events, resources are available. I urge you to consider the following:
Laura A. Siminoff
Dean of the College of Public Health