Illustration by Carolyn Ramos
I've been asking myself one question a lot lately. Actually it's been years now that this question either comes into my thoughts or is voiced with a smorgasbord of emotions made up of exasperation, sadness and anger.
It's the same question millions have been asking. We've screamed it, and nothing has been done to answer it. We forget for a little while, lulled momentarily by other atrocities we question, but it always returns. Without fail. And it seems it's returning with even greater frequency. We don't have to wait long to ask again. The time in between is getting shorter and shorter.
Really it's a rhetorical question. Because the answer would be way too real.
The question: How many lives is it going to take?
With the mass shooting that happened at Pulse nightclub in Orlando on June 12, once again the cacophony of screams demanding an answer swells high and loud.
It's been widely reported as the deadliest mass shooting in United States history. But let's be real here and add "for now" to the end of that. On that night, 49 men and women were gunned down by someone who was severely mentally unstable, had a history of domestic abuse and had easy access to high-powered semi-automatic assault rifles designed for military use. It was a hate crime. An act of domestic terrorism perpetrated by a man so full of hate not just for the LGBTQ people in that nightclub, but for himself as well, if we are to judge by the evidence of his use of gay dating apps.
With each pull of his trigger came another round of questions triggered by the lives that fell to the ground that night. How many? Seriously, I want to know and so do countless others. How many lives is it going to take until we do something about the gun problem in America? In an ideal world where common sense is not blatantly ignored the answer would be zero. We don't seem to live in that world though.
Fine. Zero is not an option obviously. Neither is one, two, 100 or 500 apparently. In a Washington Post article that recently needed to be updated, we stand at 869. That's the number of people who have been killed in "mass shootings" in America over the last 50 years. Who knows what the number would be if we counted all victims of gun violence.
I don't need to go to Chipotle 869 times to know it's going to give me diarrhea. I learned that early on and take preventative measures to minimize the chance of said diarrhea occurring. This is not to make light of a real problem.
Why are our governing powers so quick to put barriers to, say, a woman's reproductive health and rights but when it comes to gun control they are fucking useless? A woman in Texas has seemingly endless roadblocks placed in front of her to attain a safe abortion. She can walk into a store and buy a gun in minutes, though. Perhaps she can just do that , then. Buy a gun, then shoot herself in the uterus. Cool options, Texas.
Instead of using their power to do something about this serious issue that has led to hundreds of deaths, they send out bullshit thoughts and prayers for the victims, then turn around and take money from the NRA and pro-gun lobbyists, promising to be chill. At what point can we call that bribery? At what point is the health and wellness of the people they've been elected to protect more important than money?
What bad thing can come of asking for a background check for people looking to purchase a gun? When you walk into a shooting range or store to buy a gun, they don't ask you why you want that gun in case you might be a crazy person. They ask you what you plan on using it for so they can then give you the best gun to get that job done. That is insane.
Also, why does anyone not ass-deep in enemy fire need a semi-automatic rifle? These people who defend their guns with their lives took the movie Home Alone way too fucking seriously. You don't need a home full of machine guns and booby traps to protect yourself from possible invaders. You don't need an Uzi to shoot buffalo for funsies.
It almost seems as if our governing powers think this atrocity will be followed by another one soon, and we'll forget. All they have to do is lay low, send a few thoughts and prayers and condescendingly nod as if you're suggesting something they actually plan on doing. Yeah, we'll totally have a foam party in Congress. Definitely. Condescension at its most dangerous.
The screams will eventually fall into the ether. Nothing will be done. And the possible answer to the question of "How many?"—that number that doesn't seem to exist yet—goes up a bit more.
After the San Bernardino shooting claimed 14 lives and injured 22, we asked and got no answer. But maybe we were getting closer? Nine worshippers studying the bible in their church in Charleston hadn't been enough. Nor were the 27 lives at Sandy Hook, twenty of those belonging to kindergarteners. Those didn't seem to do it. So now we have 49 more. Is this it? Are we there yet?