Only in America

June 2, 2022

By Jacquelyn D. Heath
Special to The Milwaukee Times

Daily life in the United States was violently disrupted yet again on Tuesday, May 24, 2022. An 18-yearold lone gunman in Uvalde, TX, a small town just west of metropolitan San Antonio, entered an elementary school with an assault rifle and opened fire, killing 19 fourth- and fifth-grade students along with two teachers.

Prior to arriving at the school, he had just shot his own grandmother in the face at her home. After a 77-minute delay by local police, responding officers fatally shot and killed the gunman.

This latest atrocity occurred less than two weeks after another mass shooting that took place at a Buffalo, NY supermarket, claiming the lives of 10 African American shoppers. The gunman behind this incident was also brandishing an assault rifle. He was eventually shot and wounded by police and is currently in custody.

During media coverage of both of these incidents, reporters from both domestic and foreign news outlets had one question for police officers, politicians and private citizens alike. That is, why do mass shootings seem to occur again and again in the United States of America?

Respondents talked all around the reasons – everything from defending the constitutional right to bear arms; to a person being allowed to act in whatever fashion they choose; to simply having a bad hair day. Not a single person pointed to easy access to guns as being part of the problem, let alone the problem itself.

The Gun Violence Archive, a U.S.-based independent data collection organization, defines a “mass shooting” as four or more persons being wounded or murdered at the same time with a firearm. So does that mean that three or fewer people shot is a tea party? I think not.

Since the start of 2022 to date, records show that there have been 213 mass shootings in the United States, more than any other country in the world. Compare that to 8 mass shootings in France since the beginning of the 21st Century. We seem to commemorate these atrocities with their own brand of dysfunctional folklore, and speak of them in hindsight like others would observe a national holiday – Columbine, Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, Buffalo, Uvalde – unfortunately, the list continues to grow.

As President Joe Biden left Uvalde, TX a few days after the mass shooting there, local people who had gathered yelled out to the president, “Do something!”

The “somethings” that have been bandied about include:

• Raising the legal age to purchase/own a gun in the U.S. from 18 to 21
• Requiring universal background checks on all gun purchases
• Banning “straw purchases” of guns (i.e., someone buying a gun in their name and giving it to someone else)

Unfortunately, none of these tactics address the inconvenient truth that guns are NOT a necessity or essential to daily life in our country, contrary to the implications of our Constitution – far from it. However, until we face down the self-imposed psychological brick wall mindset we nurture as a nation about guns, nothing positive or productive can be achieved. We might as well change the words to our national anthem to what we have indeed become. We are NOT (if we ever were) “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Instead, we have morphed into “the land of the trigger-happy and the home of the deranged.”

Only in America…