Guest column by Olivia Ducharme, senior creative writing major
On Nov. 5, many news outlets and social media sites were covered with #PrayforTexas, eerily similar to six weeks ago when we were hit with #PrayforVegas. But, unlike after the Vegas massacre, I didn’t cry; thanks to Facebook users, murder and domestic terrorism in the U.S. have become desensitized.
In Sutherland Springs, Texas, a First Baptist Church was in service when a white male in his mid-20s opened fire on both adults and children, according to CNN. At least 26 have died from the sustained injuries, up to 14 of which were children, launching the numbers to the highest toll of children involved in a massacre since the Sandy Hook Massacre five years ago. 84 people have died as a result of both men in Vegas and Texas opening fire at events and places that are generally considered safe.
Both men are white, American citizens and obtained their firearms legally. We see it happen every time: People flood Facebook feeds with “thoughts and prayers” before heading back to their everyday lives, which they can do, because they weren’t the ones cowering under pews or jumping over barricades, wondering if they would live or die.
In the days following each shooting, I open my Facebook to see post after post with the same sentiments. “Eliminate guns. Now.” or “Defend the Second Amendment!” Most articles that make it to circulation also seem to maintain the same content about the shooter, the victims and the aftermath. There is an almost interchangeable nature to these massacres, which can numb the catastrophe. It’s time we step away from our screens and discuss what we can do preventatively, both at federal and local levels.
It would be easy to spit my liberal antics about gun control, stricter background checks and that we shouldn’t be able to purchase guns at somewhere as common as Walmart – but that wouldn’t change anything. Instead, I’d be written off as someone with an agenda. President Donald Trump has already called the Texas massacre a “mental health problem,” but lumping people who are mentally ill with murderers is sadistic. As a result, I stayed away from Facebook on Nov. 5.
We can take to Facebook to scream about the federal government’s policies, and the gun owners will try to cling on even tighter to their firearms. “We need them to protect ourselves against the crazies! How will we defend ourselves?” seems to be the constant response. However, I believe that Las Vegas would have resulted in even further damage had there been gunfire from both sides. And when it happens again, Facebook will continue to light up with hashtags, “thoughts and prayers,” and temporary frames for our profile pictures. We’ll get inundated with photos of the murderers, and the victims will be in the spotlight for a day.
The argument was never meant to be about guns, but the value of human life. The issue is not gun ownership, but the lack of background checks in different parts of the country, along with open carry policies. This only increases the number of massacres we experience every year.
On the other hand, the Port Arthur Massacre in Australia in 1996 left 35 people dead – and the gun laws were immediately made stricter, according to NBC. As a result, citizens are unable to purchase automatic and semi-automatic firearms and rifles without justified reasoning. There have been zero mass shootings in Australia the last 21 years, according to the BBC. Perhaps it’s time for us to look away from our Facebook home screens, and instead turn to other countries for help with preventative action against gun violence.