The shooting at a small church in Sutherland Springs, Texas has rightfully reignited debates over guns in America.
Even if Devin Kelley — who used an assault rifle to kill 26 people, including eight children, while they were attending church last Sunday — had been the first person to use a gun to kill dozens of people, it would warrant a conversation. Of course, Kelley wasn’t the first. Far from it. Barely a month earlier, Stephen Paddock barricaded himself in a Las Vegas hotel room with a cache of weapons and used an assault rifle modified to allow for rapid fire to shoot from his hotel window at a concert crowd below, killing 58 people and wounding hundreds more.
And it’s not as if the Texas and Las Vegas shootings are isolated incidents. They are simply the ones that grab the most attention because the acts are so heinous and the body counts so high. But the reality is mass shootings occur almost daily in the United States.
Through Thursday, there had been 309 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2017, according to Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit organization that tracks gun violence. Those mass shootings claimed 402 lives and injured 1,650 more. Among the statistics are the three people who were killed and two others who were injured in a mass shooting on Massachusetts Street in Lawrence on Oct. 1.
In 2016, 456 people died and 1,537 were injured in 383 mass shootings. In 2015, 367 people died and 1,327 were injured in 333 mass shootings. That’s 1,225 dead and 4,514 injured in 1,025 mass shootings in less than three years.
And that’s just the mass shootings. There have been 13,323 deaths this year as a result of gun violence in America. Nine of the deaths have been in Lawrence. One was in Eudora.
Yet the conversations that should be happening aren’t — conversations about implementing safety restrictions that could prevent accidents, about broadening background checks on gun buyers, about banning individuals on the no-fly list from purchasing guns, about banning bump stocks and other gun modifications whose sole purpose is to kill more people more quickly. They aren’t being discussed in Congress, they aren’t being discussed in the Senate and they aren’t being discussed in the White House.
At the state level, the only conversations being had about guns is how to accommodate more of them in public spaces now that exemptions have expired and concealed carry is the law in Kansas.
Skeptics will argue that the debate is pointless, that nothing can be done, that no one can stop a person bent on shooting people at school, in a church, attending a concert or wandering Massachusetts Street.
That’s a cop-out.
Gun violence is a growing epidemic in America, and communities like Lawrence are certainly not immune. Inaction is unacceptable. It’s time to talk about what can be done. It’s time to try to prevent the next mass shooting.