On June 14, 2017, five people were shot wounded by a lone gunman in Alexandria, Virginia during a practice for the Republican congress baseball team. The only death was the shooter, James T. Hodgkinson, who was vocally anti-Trump. Hodgkinson’s political leanings, along with his demeanor before the attack, shows him to be intentionally targeting the Republican party.
Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, speaks on the shooting Wednesday night. He assured the public that “an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us,” as well as thanking the first responders who rushed to the scene of the attack. Even Donald Trump released statements calling for unity in the face of such a tragedy. This attack was horrific, yet tangible, proof of just how divided America is along party lines.
The Capital Police, as well as the Alexandria Police, and other emergency responders were heroic, no doubt. Without their bravery and courage, surely many more lives would have been lost. Yet, one must ask how we can make the jobs of law enforcement easier, but more importantly, safer.
This was a mass shooting, committed with a semi-automatic rifle. How the shooter obtained the firearm is still unknown. It is a common story in America, an individual gets their hands on a gun, and several people end up dead. The shooting in Alexandria, although the highest profile, was not even the only mass shooting on June 14th. There was another a mass shooting in a UPS facility, with 5 deaths and 2 injuries. In the past week, there have been 10 mass shootings in the United States, with 9 people ending up dead.
Often, after such a tragedy, there are often calls to blame the shooter. We saw calls for mental health care reform after the mass shooting committed by Dylann Roof, and again when Bryce Williams shot of two journalists in Virginia. We saw Islamophobia on full display after the shootings in Orlando’s Pulse nightclub by Omar Mateen, and again where Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik targeted public officials in San Bernardino. When Robert Dear killed shot twelve people in a Planned Parenthood, we called him a “lone wolf,” just like when Elliot Rodger killed six others in Isla Vista.
Gun violence affects us all. It affects us on the left and the right, across all religions, and across all backgrounds. Donald Trump’s remarks included a call for a move towards “a nation of safety and peace.” For the good of the American people, safety means gun control. We need stricter background checks. We need more mental health screenings. We need to make it harder for bad people to buy firearms.
Almost all of these attackers have violent backgrounds, Hodgkinson included. According to the Everytown For Gun Safety analysis, 54% of mass shootings between 2009 and 2016 have been related to domestic violence or family abuse. Another 43% exhibited other warning signs before attacking, including attempted attacks, and threats of violence. To top it all off, only a third of mass shootings were committed by someone who was banned from having a gun.
Common sense gun safety and regulation does not mean taking away guns, nor does it mean terminating the second amendment. Common sense gun reform means taking guns out of the hands of those who are too dangerous or unstable to possess them. It means keeping guns away from those who will seek to harm, or even murder, others.
In the words of Paul Ryan, “despite the noise, we are one family.”. Families stick together, and families protect each other. Families make sure that they don’t harm each other. Part of that equation includes removing dangerous weapons from those who will use them for evil. As a family, we owe it to each other to keep America safe.
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