BY PARKER KLYN
On Sunday, one man killed at least 59 people and injured at least 515 others in a mass shooting at the Las Vegas Strip. It was the deadliest mass shooting perpetrated by an individual in United States history. For comparison, there were 767 students total in Drake’s 2016 first-year class, which included 384 in arts and sciences, 177 in business, 141 in pre-pharmacy, 38 in journalism and 27 in education. The amount of people shot to death in Las Vegas is slightly less than that class’s journalism and education schools combined, and the amount of total casualties exceeds that of the arts and sciences and business schools combined.
Imagine that. Imagine the entire first-year class getting together for a Welcome Weekend event. Imagine 75 percent of an entire first-year class of students at Drake being injured, with entire schools within that class being wiped out. There is only one widespread weapon that makes that possible: a gun. This amount of destruction and chaos executed by one man simply cannot be replicated using any other easily accessible item.
Guns have no place for private use in modern society. They are vehicles of destruction, from the individual attacks perpetrated at Las Vegas, Orlando, Sandy Hook, Fort Hood, Virginia Tech, San Bernadino, Columbine, Charleston, among many others, to the widespread gun culture that permeates the American experience. Mass shootings, as horrible and unimaginable as they are, don’t even make up the most obscene factor of gun violence: 60 percent of suicides, the second-most common cause of death among people aged 15-34, are committed by firearms, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
In Nevada, officially licensed gun dealers only have to perform a routine background check to sell someone a gun. This check excludes felons, those convicted of a violent crime, those with state-verified mental illness and those who have been dishonorably discharged from the military. That’s it. If I lived in Nevada, I could straight-up enter a gun store, run the background check, walk out with an AR-15, and commit an atrocity against myself or others. That’s unbelievable. Nothing else so clearly and obviously twisted and dystopian exists in developed society.
It’s true that according to the United States’ Bill of Rights citizens have a right to bear arms, especially in resistance to a tyrannical government. I have two responses to that. One, well, good luck with that. Two, the men who wrote that used muskets that fired one round every 20 seconds. People could line up, point blank, and take a perfect musket shot every 20 seconds and it still wouldn’t have been near enough to match the damage committed by the Vegas shooter.
Compromise won’t save lives. Items like concealed carry and a ban on assault weapons wouldn’t have done anything to stop the Vegas shooting. And to the people who say “well, how can you punish responsible gun owners?” I’d say this: you don’t need a gun. It serves no purpose. Ban all guns.
To that end, I’d pose a question to everyone reading about guns’ place in society, one that was brought up to me by a recent Current Affairs essay: if someone developed a portable button that, when pressed, would randomly kill someone around you, would you believe that has a place? You wouldn’t. And yet the fact remains that a loaded gun is basically indistinguishable from that death button.
The death-button analogy works in response to every criticism of gun control. Perhaps the most common (and I’d argue most convincing) argument against gun control is personal protection. “If a man opens fire, I need to be able to protect myself and my family.” That’s understandable. However, if we simply re-name the death button and call it an Anti-Terrorism Tool, and instruct people who buy it to only use it to protect against those who would harm them, its capabilities don’t change. It’s still a death button. The same idea works with guns. They can be marked and branded as tools of protection and recreation, but the reality is that they all have the capability to act in the same manner as the death button.
“Guns are inaccurate,” people say. While that doesn’t really matter when firing indiscriminately, if we change the button to have only a 50 percent success rate it would only take a few presses to have a legitimate effect. And even the argument that the death button would lead to indiscriminate killing falls apart when we realize that that happens every single day in the United States: there were 33,636 deaths as a result of firearm injuries in 2013.
Guns are tools of destruction that should be banned completely. Buyback programs, like the one administered in Australia after a string of mass shootings in the mid-1990s, have been immensely successful and correlate well with downturns in gun violence. In addition, gun banishment may have other interesting effects, like removing the “I thought he was armed” excuse from brutal police killings to simple accidental suicides and homicides committed by young children who don’t understand the full magnitude of a firearm. At the very least, the status quo cannot continue. I should not think to myself “Man, it’s been a long time since we’ve had a mass shooting,” like I did last month. The non-existent benefits of owning guns don’t come close to outweighing the immense harms that guns create.