Stop gun violence

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

In America, freedom is what it's all about. We are free to believe what we believe, love who we love and say what we want to say. We're also free to get murdered by a madman with a gun while seeing a movie, hanging out after a concert, going to school or praying in church.

Mass shootings like these have become so common that I wasn't surprised when I woke up Sunday morning and heard about the mass shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Florida. The shooting is reportedly the worst mass shooting in American history, with 50 dead and more than 50 injured. And it's not surprising at all. It's really just the natural progression of living in a country where lawmakers can't be bothered to address gun violence.

Gun violence is a tricky topic because so many people have so many different opinions on how to -- or how not to -- regulate guns. It is our right as Americans to own guns, and very few people have suggested banning guns on the whole. This is where a discussion should start. This is where we should try to find a compromise to prevent mass shootings from happening in the future.

Unfortunately, we get so caught up in our rhetoric that it becomes difficult to understand why we're discussing this in the first place. You can't talk someone down who believes the government is out to take his or her guns, just like you can't reason with a person who wants to completely ban guns. When people make up their minds about something like this, it's almost impossible to find some way to meet in the middle.

I don't have a solution to gun violence, but I would like to propose that we take a moment to step back from our position on the issue. We need to try to understand what others are saying, especially if it counters our own ideas. To be honest, I'd support a complete ban on assault weapons. I don't think anyone should have access to a weapon that can kill so many so quickly, and I know many people who agree with me.

That doesn't mean I wouldn't settle for stricter gun regulations. If it means that we're having a productive discussion about gun violence, a compromise would be completely OK with me. But we're not doing anything productive to address this issue. Fifty people died this weekend, and many of their fellow Americans are too busy speculating about the shooter's intentions to have a real talk about gun violence.

I've seen too much speculation to remember half of it. For starters, I've heard that the shooter had ties to terroristic group ISIS. His father said he was homophobic, and others report that he was investigated by the FBI to see if he had ties to ISIS. Some of this is true. All of it could be true.

What's undoubtedly true is that people lost their lives this weekend. These people weren't doing anything wrong. They were just going to a nightclub to dance and drink and maybe meet someone new. They were no different from you and me. It was a gay nightclub this weekend, but it could be a music festival or the grocery store next time. It could be you.

We have to stop being so blinded by our own view that we can't see what's really happening in our country. We have to sit down and listen to others who don't share our view. We have to do this, because people will keep dying if we don't.

We have the tools to fix this problem. Let's use them.

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Samantha Jones is associate editor for Carroll County Newspapers. Her email address is Citizen.Editor.Eureka@gmail.com.