We Need to Address America’s Gun Violence Problem

On Wednesday morning, two unconnected shootings rocked the United States.

Maryland GovPics / Creative Commons

At a Republican congressional baseball practice in Virginia, four people were shot by a gunman apparently enraged by the election of the Trump administration—including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), who was shot in the hip and is now in critical condition. In San Francisco, Calif., a UPS employee opened fire on his  coworkers for reasons still unknown—injuring two people and killing three before fatally shooting himself when police arrived at the scene.

Perhaps more shocking than Wednesday’s events, however, is how common they’ve become. These are two of 154 mass shootings so far this year, which represent only a small portion of America’s reported annual firearm deaths—which come to a total of over 32,000. And, as is the case in many other mass shootings, both of these shooters were men—and the gunman in Virginia had a history of domestic violence:

There is one thing, though, that an alarming number of the recent mass shooters in the United States share: A history of aggression and violence toward women. Seung-Hui Cho, who killed 32 people in the horrific massacre at Virginia Tech in 2007, had been previously investigated for stalking two female classmates. Elliot Rodger, who killed six and wounded 13 in Isla Vista, Calif., in 2014, was obsessed with perceived rejection by women, and not long before the shooting had thrown coffee on two women at a bus stop because they failed to smile at him. Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who murdered two police officers in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 2015, shot his ex-girlfriend in the stomach just hours earlier. Cedric Ford, who shot 17 people last year at the Newton, Kan., plant where he worked, killing three, had been accused of abusing his ex-girlfriend and had been served with a restraining order not long before the shooting. Robert Dear, who shot and killed three people at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, in 2015, had a history of domestic violence and harassment toward women. And Omar Mateen, who murdered 49 people at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, physically abused his wife for years, beating her because she had not finished the laundry or a similar offense.

America’s gun violence issue should not be considered an anomaly that only occurs in public mass shootings by shooters described by the media as mentally ill or disabled—it’s wrong. When it comes to the gun violence epidemic in the U.S., mass shootings are only the tip of the iceberg. The U.S. possesses 42 percent of the world’s civilian-owned guns, and they put countless lives at risk. Lax policies around gun possession allow for interpersonal conflicts and domestic violence to become deadly.

Many lawmakers consider mass shootings acts of terror. For women, and particularly women of color, the terror of gun violence is more personal. The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the chance a woman being murdered by 500 percent, and 74 percent of victims of gun violence perpetuated in the home are women. In fatal acts of domestic violence, guns are used more than any other weapon. In abusive households, they’re more commonly present. Despite this, federal laws around the intersection of domestic violence and firearm access continue to fall short of protecting women.

Many Americans have called for larger discussions around gun law reform, not just in the wake of mass shootings but in the face of a sustained culture of fatal violence involving firearms. The shootings on Wednesday serve as a reminder that America has a gun violence problem—and that it needs to be addressed immediately. The longer we wait, the longer we are all in danger—not just in public, but even at home.

Kelsey Cochran is an Editorial Intern at Ms. and a senior at Gettysburg College majoring in Globalization Studies with a focus in Western media portrayal of Arab countries. She aspires to be a photojournalist and has previously been published in her hometown’s independent newspaper The Bay Weekly. When she isn’t tracking down subjects to interview for her next article, you can find her running on the rugby filed, taking her friends’ next profile picture or talking about her time spent abroad for the hundredth time. Find her on Tumblr.

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