It Shouldn't Take a Mass Shooting To Rethink Gun Policy

It Shouldn't Take a Mass Shooting To Rethink Gun Policy

"The true American issue is not the shootings, but how the country responds."
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Mass shootings have been occurring in the United States for over a century. Whether it was at a concert in Winfield, Kansas in 1903, or a festival in Las Vegas in 2017, the message stays the same and the outcome certainly never changes.

While mass shootings are a worldwide issue, they are far more frequent in the United States. However, the true American issue is not the shootings, but how the country responds. How can an entire nation come to one consensus over a topic so broad and so volatile? How can one "united nation in mourning" be so divided in such dangerous times?

In the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in American history, it's important to realize that mass shootings are a terribly distorted way to spark the gun control debate. Our naturally sensationalist media tends to focus entirely on terrorism, police violence, and of course, mass shootings. While these three sources tend to dominate over 90% of the news, they only make up less than 3% of gun-related deaths in the United States each year. We tend to ignore a strong majority of the ~33,000 gun-related deaths in the United States simply because they don't make the news. Two-thirds of annual gun-related deaths in the United States are suicides, mainly by men aged 45 and older. Approximately another one third, or 12,000 deaths are caused by homicides. More than half of these homicide victims are young men, two thirds of whom are black. Another ~1,700 women are killed each year due to gun violence, mainly at the hands of domestic disputes. Approximately 400 Americans die annually to mass shootings, and while these shootings have been on the rise, homicides are on the way down. Annual suicides, however, are up tremendously.

Throughout these ~33,000 gun-related deaths each year, one common factor persists -- the gun. However, the roots of each problem are incredibly different, meaning the solutions must be as well.

When Americans are surveyed and polled, ~76% of Republicans and 85% of Democrats are in favor of stricter gun laws. Over 8 in every 10 Americans are in favor of a stricter national firearm code. And while implementing a blanket policy in order to satisfy the masses seems solid in theory, vocal gun owners would dominate the conversation, leading to even more contradictions throughout America's gun policy, and even more volatility between the left and the right when it comes to guns. We must realize that if new policies restricting gun access are implemented in one fell swoop, these policies will most likely miss their targeted objective. A gun law that aims to protect against the mentally ill might backfire and actually hinder the firearm purchasing process for an average, everyday American seeking to purchase a gun in pursuit of a hobby or self-defense.

America has a long history of toxic "quick-fix" policies, especially on the gun violence frontier. However, if the federal government implements another lazy stopgap policy regarding the current state of affairs, the goals and objectives of these policies will not be fulfilled. With all due respect to those involved, 59 deaths on the Las Vegas Strip are but a drop of water in the massive ocean of the "Great American Gun Problem".

If President Trump truly wants to be remembered as a "transformative President", then he must take this administration by the horns and do what his predecessor could not: create lasting and legal policy that ultimately reduces deaths caused by gun violence.

However, President Trump has to cover all the bases. A blanket policy will likely face constitutional issues and only create more political toxicity, while single-issue focused policies will leave too many open holes and unanswered questions. Policies that protect against mass shootings won't be able to stop police brutality and policies that deal with black on black gang violence won't have much of an effect on suicidal white males.

If America really wants to solve the gun violence issue, we must first realize that there are many gun issues. Gun violence is a collection of problems that need to be solved on a case to case basis. It will be utterly impossible for anyone to solve America's gun violence problems with one swift motion. However, the stage is finally set; and the wheel is finally in motion. All it took was 59 more dead Americans. Hopefully our country never has to learn this lesson again.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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An Open Letter to the Person Who Still Uses the "R Word"

Your negative associations are slowly poisoning the true meaning of an incredibly beautiful, exclusive word.
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What do you mean you didn't “mean it like that?" You said it.

People don't say things just for the hell of it. It has one definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as, "To be less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one's age."

So, when you were “retarded drunk" this past weekend, as you claim, were you diagnosed with a physical or mental disability?

When you called your friend “retarded," did you realize that you were actually falsely labeling them as handicapped?

Don't correct yourself with words like “stupid," “dumb," or “ignorant." when I call you out. Sharpen your vocabulary a little more and broaden your horizons, because I promise you that if people with disabilities could banish that word forever, they would.

Especially when people associate it with drunks, bad decisions, idiotic statements, their enemies and other meaningless issues. Oh trust me, they are way more than that.

I'm not quite sure if you have had your eyes opened as to what a disabled person is capable of, but let me go ahead and lay it out there for you. My best friend has Down Syndrome, and when I tell people that their initial reaction is, “Oh that is so nice of you! You are so selfless to hang out with her."

Well, thanks for the compliment, but she is a person. A living, breathing, normal girl who has feelings, friends, thousands of abilities, knowledge, and compassion out the wazoo.

She listens better than anyone I know, she gets more excited to see me than anyone I know, and she works harder at her hobbies, school, work, and sports than anyone I know. She attends a private school, is a member of the swim team, has won multiple events in the Special Olympics, is in the school choir, and could quite possibly be the most popular girl at her school!

So yes, I would love to take your compliment, but please realize that most people who are labeled as “disabled" are actually more “able" than normal people. I hang out with her because she is one of the people who has so effortlessly taught me simplicity, gratitude, strength, faith, passion, love, genuine happiness and so much more.

Speaking for the people who cannot defend themselves: choose a new word.

The trend has gone out of style, just like smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt. It is poisonous, it is ignorant, and it is low class.

As I explained above, most people with disabilities are actually more capable than a normal human because of their advantageous ways of making peoples' days and unknowingly changing lives. Hang out with a handicapped person, even if it is just for a day. I can one hundred percent guarantee you will bite your tongue next time you go to use the term out of context.

Hopefully you at least think of my friend, who in my book is a hero, a champion and an overcomer. Don't use the “R Word". You are way too good for that. Stand up and correct someone today.

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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To Fix Taxes, We Have To Rethink 'Wealthy'

"Wealthy" doesn't mean the same for everyone.

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When discussing taxes today, so many politicians are quick to rush to the adage "tax the rich." Bernie Sanders has called for the rich to be taxed higher to pay for Medicare for All. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has called for a 70% tax on the wealthy.

However, all of these proposals are missing a key thing: a true definition of rich.

When thinking about what counts as rich, it is important to distinguish between the "working wealthy" and the "investment wealthy."

The working wealthy are the people in society that get paid highly because they have a high skill set and provide an extremely valuable service that they deserve just compensation for. This class is made up of professionals like lawyers, doctors, and CEOs. In addition, the working wealthy are characterized by another crucial aspect: over a long term calculation of their earned income over time, they don't come out as prosperous as their annual incomes would seem to suggest. This is because this set of the wealthy has to plunge into student debt for degrees that take years to acquire. These jobs generally also require a huge amount of time invested in lower-paying positions, apprenticeships, and internships before the big-money starts coming in.

On the other hand, the investment wealthy is completely different. These are the people that merely sit back and manipulate money without truly contributing to anything in society. A vast majority of this class is born into money and they use investments into stocks and bonds as well as tax loopholes to generate their money without actually contributing much to society as a whole.

What makes the investment wealthy so different from the working wealthy is their ability to use manipulative techniques to avoid paying taxes. While the working wealthy are rich, they do not have AS many resources or connections to manipulate tax laws the way that the investment wealthy can. The investment wealthy has access to overseas banking accounts to wash money though. The investment wealthy can afford lawyers to comb over tax laws and find loopholes for ridiculous prices. This is tax evasion that the working wealthy simply does not have access to.

That is why it is so incredibly important to make sure that we distinguish between the two when discussing tax policy. When we use blanket statements like "tax the rich," we forget the real reasons that the investment wealthy are able to pay such low taxes now. Imposing a larger marginal tax rate will only give them more incentive to move around taxes while squeezing the working wealthy even more.

Because of this, in our taxation discourse, we need to focus first on making sure people pay their taxes, to begin with. Things like a tax of Wall Street speculation, capital gains taxes, a closing of loopholes, and a simplification of the tax code. These things will have a marked improvement in making sure that the investment wealthy actually pays the taxes we already expect of them now. If we stick to the same message, the only thing we will be changing is the rate that the uber-wealthy are avoiding.

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