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The Language of Abdicating Responsibility

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The Language of Abdicating Responsibility

The injuries and fatalities of those who were affected during the Marshall Country shooting cannot be in vain. (
Photo Courtesy of Facebook).

The injuries and fatalities of those who were affected during the Marshall Country shooting cannot be in vain. ( Photo Courtesy of Facebook).

The injuries and fatalities of those who were affected during the Marshall Country shooting cannot be in vain. ( Photo Courtesy of Facebook).

The injuries and fatalities of those who were affected during the Marshall Country shooting cannot be in vain. ( Photo Courtesy of Facebook).


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By Sean Franklin

The injuries and fatalities of those who were affected during the Marshall Country shooting cannot be in vain. (Photo Courtesy of Facebook).

Mass shootings are an unfortunate everyday occurrence in America. This week, yet another mass shooting (at a high school, no less) occurred in Marshall County, Kentucky. Two students were killed, and 12 others were injured. Five remain in critical condition. For most other developed countries, this would be an unimaginably outrageous act of violence; yet here in America, it barely registered. The news cycle churned on, with stories about the government shutdown and the president’s newest nonsensical statements taking up the top spots. Mass shootings have become so common in America that they are not even newsworthy anymore.

So many of these shootings come and go that a script has developed for dealing with them when they happen. Consider this statement from Republican Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin: “This is a tremendous tragedy and speaks to the heartbreak present in our communities. It is unbelievable that this would happen in a small, close-knit community like Marshall County. As there is still much unknown, I encourage people to love on each other [sic] at this time. Do not speculate, but come alongside each other in support and allow the facts to come out.”

Or this tweet from congressman James Comer (R-KY 1), who represents Marshall County: “My thoughts and prayers go out to the students & faculty at Marshall County High School where there has been a tragic school shooting.”

I want to draw your attention to the language that these Republican politicians use to describe this event. They refer to it as a “tragedy.” Not an attack, not a crime or an act of violence, but a “tragedy.” This is the kind of language that politicians usually reserve for things like natural disasters: events that are truly unpreventable. They imply, through their language, that nothing could have been done about this. That these things are just going to happen. We must send our “thoughts and prayers” and “come alongside each other in support.”

Obviously, thoughts and prayers are powerful tools for healing, and the people of Marshall County could certainly use those right now. But thoughts and prayers are not all we can offer them. We can offer them a solution.

Let me be very clear – mass shootings are preventable. Politicians such as Matt Bevin like to imply that they are not, but they are. And the only reason that they still happen in America is that Republican lawmakers are dead-set on never, ever instituting any kind of gun control policies. More guns lead to more gun violence, and the U.S. has more guns than any other country in the world.

We don’t even need a sweeping ban on all guns. We simply need to regulate them. We could institute universal background checks. We could ban those under 12 years old from buying guns (that may have prevented this week’s attack). We could end legal immunity for gun companies, or require that they produce guns with safety measures such as fingerprint scanners. If someone steals my iPhone, they can not use it; yet, the same is not true for guns. None of these measures would prevent responsible, law-abiding citizens from owning and using guns. Yet Republican politicians, amazingly, refuse to support even the most basic of gun control measures.

Some may argue that gun control will never work in America because guns are so deeply ingrained in our culture. But this claim doesn’t hold water. Australia had the same kind of gun culture before 1995, when a deadly mass shooting shook the country and prompted legislators to institute gun control measures. There have been 62 mass shootings in the United States since 1996. In Australia, there have been zero. We can even look within our own borders to see examples of gun control working. In 2007, Missouri repealed its licensing requirements. There, gun homicides rose by 25 percent. The states with the lowest rates of gun violence are, tellingly, also the ones with the lowest amounts of guns. Gun control has worked and can work here – to imply that it will not is to willfully ignore reality.

The only reason, therefore, that gun violence continues to take so many lives in America is because of political inaction. Thousands upon thousands of preventable deaths happen every year in this country for no other reason than the fact that Republican lawmakers refuse to address the issue. The next time a mass shooting happens, I want you to pay very close attention to what the politicians are saying. They are not proposing solutions and they are not introducing legislation that would limit access to guns. They are simply couching their statements in the language of tragedy.

Politicians are quick to offer “thoughts and prayers,” but slow to offer solutions. We deserve better. We deserve more than hand-wringing and resigned, fatalistic statements about how tragic these deaths are. The cycle of violence can be ended, and we should do everything in our power to end it.

 

Sean Franklin, FCRH ’21, is an urban studies major from Alexandria, Virginia.

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The Language of Abdicating Responsibility