In the wake of the mass shooting in Las Vegas—the deadliest in modern American history—the obvious must be stated: this happens nowhere else.
And even as we allow ourselves the time to reflect on the senseless loss of life, and as we pray for those who have lost loved ones, and reflect on the incomprehensibility of such evil, we must never lose sight of this truth. It happens nowhere else, and it is within our power to change it here.
Every time there is a mass shooting, reactions have become depressingly predictable. We await the news of the shooter’s race and motivation, because we know this will determine the direction of the discourse for the coming days. Digesting information as it comes, people on each side of our partisan and cultural divide respond accordingly. The media’s double standards are pointed out; accusations of politicizing tragedy are issued. And so the world turns.
But in the midst of all this—the fear, the bad faith arguments, the politics—we must keep insisting on the obvious truth, the one that can free us from this devastation: this happens nowhere else, and it is within our power to change it here.
America’s relationship to guns—unique among developed nations—is a problem for which sensible remedies exist. And for which widespread consensus exists: most Americans, for example, including gun owners, support sensible gun control measures.
To give you a sense of the gun problem in the United States, I’d recommend this analysis from Vox. Writes Vox’s German Lopez, “America is an exceptional country when it comes to guns. It’s one of the few countries in which the right to bear arms is constitutionally protected. But America’s relationship with guns is unique in another crucial way: Among developed nations, the US is far and away the most violent — in large part due to the easy access many Americans have to firearms.”
For nine months, we have watched as the Trump administration has proposed solutions in search of problems. To fix the Affordable Care Act, they proposed destroying the health care system as it currently exists, and denying coverage to the millions who are now covered by the law. To address the threat of domestic terrorism, they proposed a travel ban whose logic was undermined by our own Department of Homeland Security.
But now, presented again with an actual problem, about which we can actually do something, we will be told that their hands are tied. Members of the president’s party are already cautioning us that we “can’t legislate evil.” Evil will always be with us, so why bother?
But we must bother, because we must love our lives more than this—we must love each other’s lives more than to allow any disturbed person in the country to get their hands on a weapon of murder. We must love our lives and each other’s lives more than to accept that 33,000 of us will die this year due to gun violence. We must love our lives and each other’s lives more than to accept the accidental deaths, the homicides, and—the majority of gun deaths—the suicides that will happen this year because of the uniquely American problem of the widespread availability of guns.
It is impossible not to despair today. I don’t have words to describe the horror we’ve just seen. I think of the people I love, and can imagine them attending just such a concert, seeking some joy in the stress of life—and I think of having all that destroyed by a man with a gun.
But I will not despair tomorrow, because the truth must still count for something, and the truth is that we are not powerless to change this, and to be better, and to make gentler this country’s life for those who will come after us.