Written by: Edgar Ortiz
By now it’s almost been a whole week since we woke up to the sight of dead bodies, dozens of injured people, and highly armed police teams at us through the television screen. When the dust settled and the noise of gunshots ceased, Pulse Night Club had become known as the site of the bloodiest mass shooting in the history of the United States.
Before then, the most recent well-publicized shooting was the one which had taken place the UCLA campus just a couple of days beforehand. Adding these two to the number of mass shootings which had already been taking place over the past few years, we now have 136 mass shootings so far in this year alone.
This shooting was seemingly like so many others that have taken place, and in many other ways it was so different from others. The signs leading up the event portray an active that was so blatantly targeted against one specific segment of the population which has historically been singled out for violence in this country, while happening at a time when gun violence has been extraordinarily high in the U.S. The motivations behind this attack have left Americans quite unnerved.
It didn’t take long for everyday citizens, the media, as well as elected officials to posit as to what was the true cause behind the mass shooting that left many people dead inside the night club. Many on the left have been quick to point the finger at the ease of access to semi-automatic rifles such as the AR-15, which allows people to go on murderous rampages with such dangerous weapons designed for war that can increase the casualty count exponentially. On other hand, people to the right of the politic spectrum cite extraneous factors as the true cause of gun violence, notably radical Islam which they claim galvanizes people like Omar Mateen into committing acts of violence against people with different customs and lifestyles from themselves. Recent news of the assailants mental capacity has also resurrected questions about our mental health system and its inadequacies in helping to provide care for people with potentially dangerous behaviors. The list of possible reasons that might have contributed to this sudden eruption of violence goes on.
The ugly truth is that it was an amalgamation of all of these things. From an inability to monitor and diagnose the mental well-being of Omar Mateen, who since childhood was reportedly viewed as a potential threat to himself and others, to an enduring air of homophobia that grips the hearts of many in this country, to the ridiculous ease of access to guns in the country which even people suspected of terrorist affiliations can very easily obtain and use to commit such atrocities – these types of issues are so complex and multilayered that even as one side attempts to take the morally superior stance on the issue, it may find itself contending with another side who has the same intentions of trying to decipher the root cause of this in order to prevent future mass shootings. The ensuing result is gridlock that perhaps has no better metaphor that our congressional body that seems inert on this issue.
There are a few things we can do however, even in the midst of a seemingly endless cycle ofviolence and tragedy. First off, as young people we must dare to engage with those who harbor differing opinions from us in order to create a foundation that fosters dialogue and engagement. While there are some differing views and ideologies out there that we may find revolting (it happens to all of), we must resist the urge to self-censor provocative for that in itself fosters the dangerous type of disengagement that keeps us from active challenging to change opposing views.
Another step that we can take is reaching out to our elected officials and other key actors involved in the process of crafting legislation that addresses gun violence. Whether we believe that the emphasis should be on mental health, gun control, domestic violence, or civil rights, it is important that we make it known to key actors in these areas that their current progress is not enough, and that more should be done to prevent these travesties from occurring. In a time where the cloud of political apathy looms over us, the only way to move forward is to overcome this distant relationship that people, especially young people, have with politics. Because gun violence, like any other issue in our society, is inextricably linked to political machinations at all levels.
The third step that we can take, and perhaps the most important one, is to continue to retain civic engaged in our communities. Even as young people, we are important stakeholders in the health of our communities, and we can take on a greater role in steering our communities on the right path through our words and actions. Donating time at a local food bank, visiting place of work (of different faiths including your own), participating in city government – all of these micro-level actions can come together to create large net benefits for society as a whole. There may always be tragedies that befall our fellow human beings, by by resisting the temptations of inaction or sideline jeers we can mobilize and begin to take the steps that will prevent more Sandy Hooks and Orlandos from befalling our fellow people.