Charleston: Mass Shootings, Gun Control, Racism and Other Prejudices...

In the wake of Charleston, I can’t help but be reminded of The McDonald’s massacre, The Oklahoma post office murders, Luby’s cafeteria, Columbine, Fort Worth, Virginia Tech, Ft. Hood, The Gabrielle Giffords shooter, The Aurora “Joker,” Newtown, UCSB, and the countless other mass shootings that have happened in our country. I can’t help but be reminded of the tragic, race-driven, police-civilian cases that have occurred.

Many try to explain away the problem by merely identifying the killers as mentally ill.

In a few cases, that is the truth.

But by perpetuating that mental illness is the only problem, we are not only rudely stigmatizing those who truly are mentally ill by labeling them as “dangerous,” but we are also deterring those who truly need help from actually seeking it because we are making mental illness out to be something that is “wrong” or “bad.”

Many are using it as a scapegoat because they don’t want to acknowledge that the true root of these crimes involves racism, sexism, homophobia, and countless other prejudices that have been deemed “uncomfortable to talk about” and have been swept under the rug for years.

I believe these are the problems we need to address and bring to light. We need to have a better, more open dialogue. We need to work together and unify, now more than ever. We need to face this hate head-on and say once and for all that judging someone by the color of their skin, by their genitalia, by how they identify with themselves, or by who they choose to share a bed with, is wrong and will not be tolerated.

I personally wish that all of us could come together in a circle of love, holding hands and singing Kumbaya. I’ll even bring the cake…filled with rainbows and smiles and we can all eat it and be happy.

In a perfect universe, we could achieves these ends.

But, I’m not naïve. We do not live in a flawless utopia. There are always going to be crappy people in the world who are always going to spew their hate and vitriol.

Such is life.

Yet, we can try our hardest every day to get one step closer to a “more perfect union.”

Getting rid of ingrained racism, sexism, and homophobia takes time. The fact that slavery ended in 1865 in America, and yet racism still pervades, proves that.

But, we have dangerous, life-threatening problems in our country NOW.

I can’t help, but think about those poor souls in Charleston, who went into their church, THEIR OWN CHURCH, for bible study. They went to pray. They went to see friends. They went to connect with their community.

And they invited a complete stranger into their midst out of the kindness of their hearts.

They didn’t deserve what they got. No one deserves that. They deserved to die a quiet death at age 100 in their sleep. Not at the hands of a deranged, hate-filled, terrorist.

The horror, the pain, the grief, the emotions that the victims felt in those last moments…I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.

And think about those who survived, who had to watch their friends and family die. The fear and trauma of that day that continues to replay in their minds.

Their lives will never be the same.

I’m sure I echo the sentiments of those across this country when I think, ‘What if, tomorrow, this is me? What if I never get to accomplish all that I want in life? What if I leave my home one day and never come back? What if I go out to meet my friend and days later find myself watching their coffin lowered into the ground?’

These are scary realities we have to face every day and, I think, what can we do to stop the madness?

What do we do to make sure innocent people who walk out the door in the morning to go to work and school will make it home that evening safe and sound in their bed?

Racism, sexism, homophobia, hate…They’re all so hard to fix.

But, gun control isn’t.

Now, I realize I speak from an interesting perspective, as a person who has never fired or owned a gun and has no desire to do either one of those things in the future.

There are many who like guns and use guns for sport. I completely respect that. This is a free country. People should be allowed to do what they want.

But as we all know, certain things used responsibly by some citizens have been used irresponsibly by others and can negatively affect the public. Unfortunately, we have had to adjust and change laws because the few ruin it for the many.

We don’t want drunken wild teens hurting themselves and those around them, so we made the drinking age 21. Drugs affect the public health and can influence certain people to kill or do harm to others, so we made them illegal. People get into car accidents, so to minimize the problem, we regulated the speed limits.

In the United States, the rate of mass shootings has tripled since 2011 and the number of race-related, police vs. civilian cases has increased dramatically in recent years.

There are many countries, such as England and Australia, where police do not carry guns, guns are illegal, guns are allowed only for sport or hunting, or guns are limited with specific permit requirements and many regulations based on the types of guns utilized. In those countries, the mass shootings have dropped to zero and, while there is still and will always be violence and crime, the number of deaths by gun violence is practically non-existent. Not only this but, while some still have access to guns, it is usually on black markets where the cost of a gun is thousands of dollars, unlike in the United States where you can purchase a cheap automatic weapon online in minutes without a background check and have it shipped to your door.

Many will say that, as a US citizen, it is our 2nd Amendment right to bear arms and be able to protect ourselves, according to the Constitution.

Which is true.

But, that’s the beauty of our Constitution. It can be changed. That’s what amendments are for.

Way back when, we had an amendment that prohibited alcohol for the better part of a decade. And we all know how that turned out.

We amended the amendment.

Plus, in terms of protection, how many people are locked and loaded, ready with a gun to protect themselves?

What are you going do? Ask the robber, mugger, rapist, terrorist person to stop for a second while you take the safety off your gun? And if your home is getting broken into, and you are a responsible gun owner, are you going to ask the criminal to wait as you enter in the passcode to your safe, take the gun out, and load before they continue tying you up and taking your stuff?

The idea of using a gun for protection was necessary when you had to form a militia to rise up against the government or defend your homestead whilst the British were coming. But, in a world of government drones and heat seeking missiles and nuclear warheads, it seems a little silly.

We can’t end racism now.

We can’t end sexism and homophobia now.

We can’t end violence and crime now.

We can’t end hate now.

But, we can limit the use of or get rid of guns.

If we further restrict and regulate gun usage, for both civilians and our police, prejudiced and sick individuals will have no tools with which to act upon their hate.

It’s a small step, but a necessary one, in my opinion.

We need to stop and re-evaluate our priorities.

We need to value human life more than guns.