Last night I went to a friend's place to celebrate having made it through our second year of graduate school together. There was great company and plenty to drink, and at some point we called it a night and I went to sleep on their couch. Next thing I know, it was the morning and I woke up. Didn't feel like the world's greatest, but I woke up.
Shortly after, I learned that, just as we celebrated our lives last night, many more were celebrating their own, in a club across the country. The only difference was, 50 of them never woke up this morning. And of the hundreds that did, their lives were probably changed forever.
When I first heard of this, my instinctive reaction was "wow...Murica, I guess." I didn't think much more about it and went on to eat a big meal of chicken waffles, thinking that this will be just another hung-over Sunday. But for some reason, I couldn't stop thinking about it. I couldn't stop thinking about it and I couldn't stop reading about it, and the more I read, the more confused I felt. I was confused about why I was so sad and angry. Not to sound callous, but usually reading the news doesn't get me riled up anymore, because, well, shit happens. Shit happens all over the world, and usually there is a reason for it - be it civil unrest, religious conflict, or domestic dispute. And usually, reason alone is enough for me to shrug my shoulders and move on. But I couldn't today, and I finally realized why:
There is no fucking reason why a civilian in this country should be able to leave a store with a legally purchased AR-15, a semi-automatic, military-grade (M16) assault rifle. None at all.
Reading about events like this, it's certainly guaranteed that you will run into a gamut of knee-jerk reactions, be it on social media or "real" news outlets. Of course, there is the anti-Islam reaction, and we were graced with the Donald's personal and thoughtful opinion on this matter. That's fine, you know what, I get it. If some dude pledges allegiance to ISIS and shoots up the city, I can see why a conservative and traditional American upbringing can lead you to have that fear reaction. I don't think it's reasonable, but I can see why, and I don't know how to solve this problem either. There is also the reaction of sending love to the LGBT community, and how intolerance towards a different life choice indoctrinated by an Islamic (or religious, in general) upbringing is to be lamented over (and of course, politicians' prayers). Finally, as always, a peak in interest in mental health often co-occurs with mass shootings, though it wasn't so prominent today since, well, it wasn't a white dude. All of these reactions are warranted and reasonable, and they deserve further discussion. Of course, Islamic extremism is a real security issue and needs to be treated with sensitivity, not with a dogmatic and militant viewpoint (be it left- or right-leaning). And of course, mental health and discrimination against the LGBT community are also real and persistent issues that deserve our attention. But frankly, I don't think today is the time and place for those things, because talking about ISIS or gay-intolerance takes the attention off of a very real and tangible problem:
How do you prevent one mentally unstable person from killing 50 people in a crowded place?
It doesn't take a genius to figure out: maybe you shouldn't sell them a fucking machine design to kill many people very, very quickly. This is just fucking absurd. If I could use all the cuss words in my lifetime today to describe how ridiculous this situation is, I would. Because it is just, absolutely, fucking, absurd. Instead of having the Islam debate or the homophobic debate - which, again, are important things to talk about but have no clear course of action - every single media outlet should focus on the only thing we know for certain, which is that had the shooter not have a semi-automatic ASSAULT RIFLE, he wouldn't have been able to kill 50 and injure many more in a matter of minutes.
My sadness, anger, and frustration stems solely from this incomprehensible fact. Like I said before, people die all the time, and it sucks, but most of the time I don't get too worked up because you can conjure up some high-level explanation for it. But for this, today, there is no explanation. And it REALLY hit me when I read the first article that linked it to Sandy Hook, in referencing it as the worst mass shooting in American history. Why? Because I completely forgot about Sandy Hook, and that's the scariest thing about this. News stories will inevitably fall off in popularity, at which point we can move on to be outraged by the next thing. But we cannot afford to just move on from this. There is no discussion needed as to what could be done to prevent things like this from happening again. Yes, if he wasn't an ISIS sympathizer or a terrorist, it probably wouldn't have happened; and yes, if he wasn't a homophobe, it probably wouldn't have happened - probably! But we know for CERTAIN that if those rifles had not been accessible, 50 people would not have died. Maybe 3 or 5 in a knife fight, and that would be another regular day at the night club. But not 50, and not potentially more when he held the remaining people hostage. You can't hold a building hostage with a goddamn knife.
Just in case you're really hung up on one of the other "causes" of this tragedy, consider this: it could've easily been a white, non-religious shooter, and it could've easily been at a mall or a school or a movie theatre. Easily. Not convinced? Well, they all happened, in the last 5 years. And the only thing linking these tragedies? Not ISIS, but the very same assault rifle.
I don't have anything intelligent to say about the Islamic situation, because I don't know if he was inspired, brainwashed, or just hijacked for publicity. But I will just say this: if you are one of those people that are dead set about this being about ISIS and an act of terrorism, then you should agree that somebody should be responsible for arming these goddamn terrorists. Supplying firepower to a member of a terrorist organization is a criminal offense and is not far from treason, so should we not prosecute the arms seller and manufacturer?
I don't really know where I'm going with this anymore, except for the fact that I'm still simultaneously fucking livid and heartbroken. It just baffles me. It just feels like we can actually DO SOMETHING about this, but I don't know what! How do you get the politicians to get their heads out of somebody else's ass so they can do something reasonable and think about the consequences of any old Joe being able to walk into a gun store and buy a military-grade assault weapon? How???
You know what, my American friends, if you feel the same way about this or perhaps know somebody that have the insight as to what we can do, please share this, because I just don't understand why this is happening over and over again, and I don't want to have the pleasure of being this worked up over yet another tragedy in the near future.
And you know what's really ironic in all of this? I'm fucking Canadian.
Please, fix your goddamn country.