R.J. Lewis, center, attends a vigil at All Souls Unitarian Church with others, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, in Colorado Springs, Colo., following a fatal shooting at gay nightclub Club Q late the night before. Lewis was at Club Q when a 22-year-old gunman entered the LGBTQ nightclub killing several people and injuring multiple others. (RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via AP)AP
America’s latest mass shooting was at a Walmart in Virginia. Six people died, along with the gunman. It’s a sad start to what is supposed to be a season of holiday cheer.
Only days before that, five people died and 25 were wounded in a mass shooting at a gay bar in Colorado Springs. That struck fear in LGBTQ+ communities everywhere, including in Pennsylvania. Derrick Rump, 38, a Kutztown Area High School graduate, was among those killed in the Colorado Springs tragedy.
The stark truth is others could die in mass shootings before the year is out.
The Walmart shooting was the seventh mass killing in this country in just one month. We’re still trying to decipher what happened at the University of Virginia. And we’re still trying to figure out why dozens of police officers were paralyzed in the Uvalde school hallway, while 21 children and teachers died.
FILE – Reggie Daniels pays his respects a memorial at Robb Elementary School on June 9, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas. Nearly 400 law enforcement officials rushed to the mass shooting that left 21 people dead at the elementary school but “systemic failures” created a chaotic scene that lasted more than an hour before the gunman was finally confronted and killed, according to a report from investigators released Sunday, July 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)AP
Uvalde has become almost a symbol of our national inertia on gun violence. Like the Uvalde police officers, government officials who could do something seem to have no sense of urgency to stop the mass shootings that are becoming all too commonplace in our country.
Our response to the ongoing tragedy of the deaths of innocent men, women and children is far different from what happened in Australia more than two decades ago. After a 28-year-old man walked into a café in Port Arthur in April 1996 and killed 35 people, the country united in outrage to take decisive action. They just couldn’t take it anymore.
Their threshold was a lot lower than ours.
Australians decided they had too many guns and unstable people could too easily get them. So they moved quickly to reform gun laws. They set up a national registry and mandated permits for all new firearms purchases. Australians even went so far as to ban automatic and semi-automatic rifles and shotguns. And they instituted a mandatory buyback of all such weapons.
Those actions didn’t get all guns off of Sidney’s streets, but they got enough to save lives.
In 2011, Harvard’s David Hemenway and Mary Vriniotis concluded in a 2011 report that Australia’s efforts “seems to have been incredibly successful in terms of lives saved.” One report noted in the 18 years before the gun law reforms, there were 13 mass shootings in Australia. None were reported a decade after the reforms were enacted.
We can never know how many lives were saved because thousands of guns were removed from Australian streets, but at least those guns didn’t kill innocent children. At least the Australians did something.
A Franklin County judge has placed on hold state laws banning municipalities from passing gun-control ordinances stricter than state gun laws. (Rogelio V. Solis, Associated Press, file)
We could also look at the Czech Republic, which mandates people take a test to show they’re competent to possess a deadly firearm. Their gun laws are among the most lenient in Europe, but gun owners there have to prove they know how to use a weapon safely and pass a background check. The last mass shooting in the Czech Republic was in 2019.
What works for Australia and the Czech Republic may not work in the United States. And we’re not calling for doing exactly what they did. The point is, there needs to be urgent bipartisan efforts to recognize what’s worked around the world to prevent weekly mass shootings. It just might work here.
Australians and Czechs put politics and profits aside to protect their people. They cared more about saving lives than protecting their gun industries. They didn’t just hold prayer vigils and memorials. They put the right to life and safety over the right to own guns.
In the United States, we somehow think our prayers alone will do the trick. Here’s another stark truth. Prayers alone won’t stop the slaughter.
Innocent people will continue to die in the most horrific way if we don’t do something to reform gun laws in this country.
This combination of photos provided by the Chesapeake, Va., Police Department shows top from left, Tyneka Johnson, Brian Pendleton and Randy Blevins, and, bottom from left, Kellie Pyle and Lorenzo Gamble, who Chesapeake police identified as victims of a shooting that occurred late Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, at a Walmart in Chesapeake. (Chesapeake Police Department via AP)
Today, families of Walmart employees and the LGBTQ+ community are mourning. Earlier this year, it was the families of little children in Uvalde. Before that it was Christians praying in a Charleston church and people shopping at a supermarket in Buffalo. And we can never forget what our Jewish friends suffered in Pittsburgh in 2018.
We are compelled to ask the horrifyingly obvious question . . . who will know the same suffering tomorrow? When will we have had enough?
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