Tragic mass shootings are a political issue

Staff Editorial

Though it almost certainly wasn’t his intent, Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush shined a terrifying light on the issue of American gun violence while speaking in South Carolina last week.

“Look, stuff happens,” Bush said. “There’s always a crisis, and the impulse is always to do something and it’s not always the right thing to do.”

“Stuff happens.” Let that sink in for a moment. A gunman opened fire at Umpqua Community College in Oregon on Thursday, killing 10 (including himself), and the reaction is “stuff happens.”

It would be easy to spin this into an attack on Bush and other right-leaning Americans. The truth of the matter is mass shootings happen at a horrific rate in all manner of public spaces in this country and, from the outside looking in, we feel like nobody in power is racing to do anything about it.

In the aftermath of the shooting, the Washington Post reported that it was the 294th mass shooting in America in just 274 days. The Post counted any incidents in which four or more people were killed or injured by guns, including the shooter(s).

To be fair, there is actually something of an educated observation in the second part of Bush’s quote. It is absolutely possible to hastily pass harmful legislation in the wake of a tragedy.

The various government surveillance measures that came after the Sept. 11 attacks exemplify this.

But, as the numbers show, the Oregon shooting wasn’t an isolated incident. It was merely the latest in an epidemic of gun violence in this country.

As college students, The Sunflower staff no longer feels safe going to class, knowing it is increasingly likely each day could be our last.

And it isn’t just university campuses. We all know about the Aurora movie theater and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.

It’s easy to feel like no public area is safe anymore.

Bush’s quote demonstrates the worst part of all of this: We’ve become so numb to these frequent attacks that they barely register as anything more than “stuff happens” to many of us.

It’s obvious to us that stricter regulations on the legal acquisition of firearms are needed. In first-world countries where it’s more difficult (but still possible) to own guns, this doesn’t happen nearly as often.

Yes, we’ve all heard “if you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns.” If you build a dam, there will eventually be cracks, but that doesn’t mean we should just let the water flow freely.

And if it’s true that “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” then the good guys who legally own firearms in all 50 states aren’t doing their jobs.

Umpqua Community College allows concealed-carry on its campus, and thus is not one of the defenseless “gun-free zones” opponents of gun control malign. Starting in 2017, Wichita State will also allow concealed-carry.

We don’t know if a mass shooting will ever occur here. What we do know is that, if legislators continue their trend of ambivalence to preventable tragedies, the possibility will always exists, and that scares us.