Caution against ‘walk up, not out’ approach to gun violence
On Sunday, a package bomb detonated in Austin, Texas and injured two unnamed men, making it the fourth incident of its kind this month, according to . Fortunately, the two men suffered non-life-threatening injuries, but the same cannot be said for the victims of the first three explosions. The first three incidents killed 39-year-old Anthony Stephan House, 17-year-old Draylen Mason and an seriously injured an unnamed 75-year-old woman. In these three cases, the packages were placed on the individuals’ doorsteps at night rather than being delivered through a postal service . These occurrences, right on the heels of the that have occurred in the United States since the beginning of this year, shed light on a bigger nationwide problem. Be it gun violence or bomb attacks, domestic terrorism is the problem plaguing the country and appropriate action is not being taken.
Merriam-Webster defines terrorism as “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.” In the case of Nikolas Cruz, the malefactor behind the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, Cruz was not labeled as a terrorist or even as a criminal but rather as a “socially awkward teenager lost in the world” in . Brandeis’ campus, along with many other high schools and universities across the nation, is filled with “socially awkward teenagers,” so that isn’t the issue. The issue is that he wanted to inflict pain on others, not that he was somehow misunderstood. Despite knowing that there are people targeting and killing others, the nation is still not taking proper action to prevent future atrocities.
After the Parkland shooting, President Donald Trump turned to Twitter to condemn the FBI for utilizing their time to investigate Russian collusion by Trump’s presidential campaign instead of expressing remorse for the lives lost, evidenced by . Later, in a televised conversation with the country’s governors, Trump reminisced about the “old days” when potential criminals could be locked up and promised to ban bump stocks — yet there was no mention of stricter gun restrictions or increasing the legal age to purchase a firearm. Trump is too busy trying to please his pals in the National Rifle Association to acknowledge that there is actually a solution to this problem.
Outside of the government’s jurisdiction, the response on a local level has also been inappropriate and borders on victim-shaming. According to , some parents have proposed that instead of walking out of class — like some students have done to show solidarity with those affected by the shooting — their children and other students should “walk up” instead. Ryan Petty, the father of one of the victims, shared inviting students to “walk up to the kid who sits quietly in the corner of the room and sit next to her, smile and say Hi.”
While this is admirable and a worthwhile solution to the bullying problem that manifests itself in schools, it does not address gun violence adequately. Going up to hug a student won’t change their mind and cause them to rethink their actions; in fact, this statement makes a sweeping and dangerous generalization that any introverted student is a potential criminal. “debunked” the myths surrounding the 1999 Columbine High School shooting and revealed that perpetrators Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were not bullied by other students — a popular misconception surrounding the incident. Similarly, this call to action risks placing blame upon the students who lost their lives, making it seem as if it was something that they could have prevented themselves. While Petty’s intentions were good, it was not the most appropriate means of action. Instead, he should stand with those who are rallying for reform of current gun ownership laws.
In April 1996, gunman Martin Bryant killed 35 people in the Port Arthur prison colony in Tasmania, Australia. As a result of this incident, Australia enacted strict gun laws — considered the most comprehensive in the world according to . Shortly after the incident, all six Australian states enacted laws banning semi-automatic rifles and shotguns and made the process of obtaining a gun more difficult. Australia has a 28-day waiting period, along with background checks and a requirement that prospective owners present a justifiable reason to own a gun. Since then, many firearms have been either sold back to the government or destroyed, reducing the number of gun-owning households in Australia by half. Similarly, the rates of homicide and suicide have decreased since then.
While this might be a difficult issue to tackle in the United States given its Second Amendment protections, it is still worth noting that gun restrictions do work. The solution to the long-standing problem in the United States does not lie within a hug or a conversation with a stranger.