What has happened to our country and why has it become so violent? In particular gun violence seems to be more prevalent than ever. Starting with the first mass shooting that got the nation's attention, the Columbine shootings. Here we had 2 teenagers who may have been the subject of bullying at their school - instead of dealing with their frustrations in a positive manner, they meticulously planned to enter their school armed with assault rifles and handguns and kill as many of their perceived enemies as possible. I don't know that they ever expected to make it out alive themselves, but they were in this for the glory. If not, why take as many pictures dressed in the garb and holding the weapons they would use to gun kids down with?
Harris & Klebold planned their attack in order to cause the most casualties and deaths as possible. They ultimately killed 15 people (includes both gunman) and injured 24 more people. It could have been a lot worse considering the arsenal they had. As the photo to the left depicts, they had access to assault weapons that went well beyond what a handgun could do. 99 explosives were also found with other weapons law enforcement ultimately found they more than likely intended to use. This is probably the first time the general public had fear in sending their kids to school. If it could happen to Columbine, it could theoretically happen anywhere.
My sister and her husband are both long term high school teachers in the San Diego area, and I worry about their safety every time I see one of these headlines. Some schools may have stepped up security measures, hiring security guards or implementing metal detectors, but many schools lack the funding to make such changes. I can say that I was never afraid to go to school back in my day. The most we had to fear would be a fist fight.
Then the most innocent of victims were targeted at an elementary school - Sandy Hook. 20 year old Adam Lanza killed his mother and then went about gunning down people at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The death toll there was 20 children between the ages of 6-8 and 6 adults. I don't know what his connection to the school was, if any. It seems in some of these shootings a connection isn't necessary for the shooter. Elementary school children were an easy mark.
Virginia Tech was another mass shooting that shocked the nation. Seung-Hui Cho was a senior at Virginia Tech when he decided to amass an arsenal and gun down people at his college. He ultimately killed 32 people and injured 17 more. There was talk of him having a mental illness diagnosis of some kind, but he was bright enough to make it to his senior year of college and was said to be intelligent. Looking at photos he took of himself dressed in his killing gear paint a picture of what was in his mind at the time of this attack.
He either looks crazy or as if he's trying to look like a tough guy/bad ass. So much for the mental illness diagnosis. There are many people who battle mental illness successfully without ever hurting another sole. I just don't buy any defense on his part. He wanted to become infamous and with the shooting his name is in the history books. Apparently he couldn't make it happen with positive actions.
Perhaps the most eerie of mass shootings in recent memory were the "Dark Knight" movie theatre killings. We love our movies, and people of all ages, races, colors, sizes and nationalities go to the movies as one of our favorite pastimes. I've always felt safe in a movie theatre and viewed it as a very pleasant experience. That is until James Holmes burst into a late night showing of "the Dark Knight Rises" and opened fire in a theatre full of confused and panicked moviegoers. Many of the moviegoers believed Holmes actions to be a stunt of some kind, but the bullets and mayhem were all too real. He ultimately killed 12 people and injured another 70 people during his rampage. It seems he meant to cause more destruction as law enforcement found his home booby trapped with explosives and he had many weapons and ammunition at his disposal. Why did he do it? We may never know. His court appearances made him appear mentally imbalanced, but that may have been part of his grand scheme.
Then there was the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando that truly shocked the world. One man caused so much death and destruction and it's hard to make sense of the senseless. Since the Pulse nightclub was a place frequented by the LGBT community, there was an undercurrent of hate crime there. Omar Mateen killed 49 people and injured 50 - but he shattered the lives of so many more with his senseless and cowardly act.
That brings us to the mass shooting in Las Vegas. Las Vegas, a destination that reminds you of lights, gambling, shows and fun. Sure, there is a seedy side to Vegas but most people go to experience all the good Las Vegas has to offer. 62 year old Stephen Paddock may have been in Las Vegas for a different purpose. From his room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort, he had a perfect vantage point for the outdoor concert taking place below him. His room was found stockpiled with weapons and ammunition. There were an estimated 22,000 people attending a country music festival when Paddock began unleashing round after round after round, spraying the unsuspecting crowd with bullets and sending the crowd from confusion to panic. Law enforcement has said that Paddock possibly suffers from an undiagnosed mental illness that may have contributed to his murderous rampage.
That may be a contributing factor, but law enforcement also confirmed they found a handwritten note by Paddock where he was calculating how many targets he might hit and the distance and trajectory involved. He had to have been SANE enough to think about these calculations. Paddock had also attempted to purchase "tracer" bullets, but he wasn't able to because the store was out of stock. Sounds like a calculating move of somebody who was hell bent on killing as many people as possible. Paddock killed 58 people and injured an estimated 500 people. It was a scene of absolute panic as people tried to discern if they were hearing fire crackers or rapidly firing bullets. I can't imagine. Not wanting to believe someone was opening fire on a large crowd, but then realizing that's exactly what was happening as bodies began to fall. It must have been absolutely terrifying.
Haven't we seen enough of these scenes play out across America? Is it finally time to force a change? Does anybody really believe the framers of the Constitution meant we should have the right to bare arms for these purposes? I sincerely doubt it. The NRA will fight any further restrictions for as long as it takes. Gun makers profits will rise when these topics come up, as people run out to purchase firearms in the fear that restrictions will toughen up laws and they will be left without a firearm.
Guns do have a place and purpose in our society - police officers need them to protect themselves and the public. Homeowners can own them to protect their families and their property against deadly threats. However it seems the guns on the street are being used for domestic violence, mass shootings and domestic terrorism, gang warfare and other criminal activities. Let's be honest about the state of our country. Murder with firearms is at an all time high and only getting worse. Disturbed people looking to make a name for themselves grab a gun and plan the next mass shooting so they can go down in a blaze of glory. Not all gun owners are irresponsible. For the most part, people who own and license their guns take their responsibility seriously. It's the other population of people who illegally own guns that are a danger to our society.
When are we going to wise up and demand change from our government? What can we as a society do? If anybody has ideas, please share them here. There is strength in numbers. I'll never get through to anyone on my own and neither would you. But together, maybe we can get some changes enacted. Let's stand up for CHANGE and a safer America!!