On the night of April 28, 2023, in a sleepy community 50 miles north of Houston, Texas, bullet-riddled bodies of five human beings, including an eight-year-old boy, lay lifeless, cut down in the most gruesome way. Their only sin was asking for a night of peace, but their request was met with the deafening sound of gunfire from a neighbor brandishing an AR-15. This senseless tragedy is yet another grim victory for the National Rifle Association (NRA) ‘s beloved “America’s Rifle,” a killer machine that has been responsible for countless devastating incidents like this one.
For decades, AR-15 has been the go-to assault rifle for the U.S. military in every major conflict since Vietnam. With its ability to fire dozens, if not hundreds, of rounds in rapid succession, the AR was designed to inflict maximum casualties in the shortest amount of time. In recent years, however, the NRA and U.S. gun-makers have successfully transformed this deadly weapon into a symbol of civilian pride and independence.
By some warped logic, owning an AR-15 has somehow become synonymous with patriotism, and a fundamental right, fiercely protected by the Second Amendment. Sadly, this glorification of a weapon of mass murder has had devastating consequences. From Aurora to Newtown, Orlando, San Bernardino, and now Cleveland, the monster leaves a trail of tragedy and despair in its wake, casting a dark shadow on our nation’s future.
It’s a common refrain that guns don’t kill people; people kill people. But this overly simplistic view overlooks the complexity of the issue at hand. Mental illness is often cited as the root of gun violence, but this ignores the fact that many countries with similar rates of mental illness don’t have the same levels of gun violence as the United States. Not even close.
While it is true that some individuals who commit acts of gun violence may have mental health issues, research suggests that this is not the sole or even primary factor that contributes to gun violence in the U.S. In fact, studies have found that individuals with mental illness are actually more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of violence.
It’s high time for Americans to confront the uncomfortable truth – the availability of firearms plays a significant role in making it easier for individuals to carry out violent acts. We can no longer ignore this stark reality. It’s worth noting that other developed countries with significantly lower rates of gun violence have implemented strict gun control laws and have tackled the underlying social and economic factors that fuel violence.
With an estimated 393 million guns currently in circulation in the United States, there is a crucial need to have honest conversations about responsible gun ownership and sensible gun control measures that can help keep our communities safe. The idea that any discussion about gun control is a subterranean effort to confiscate all guns from responsible gun owners is a baseless fear-mongering tactic propagated by conscienceless gun lobbyists.
It’s no secret that our political landscape has become a battlefield of division, where civil discourse is all but extinct. Instead, we’re faced with a reality where super PACs, corporate media, and special interests all peddle divisive conspiracy theories for their own gain. Rather than seeking truth and understanding, Americans have become fixated on winning at all costs, regardless of whether their side has a superior argument.
This toxic mentality has contributed to the erosion of trust in our institutions and the polarization of our society. If we want to move forward as a nation, we must prioritize the pursuit of objective truth and seek out leaders who prioritize unity and the greater good over narrow self-interest.
Gun violence is an insidious and pervasive problem in America. This is not a partisan issue despite what the media and politicians would have us believe. It affects every state, red or blue, and takes the lives of Americans from all walks of life. Death is the great equalizer, and it’s time that we come together as a nation to address this monumental crisis in a meaningful way.
The scourge of gun violence is an intricate and multi-dimensional problem that demands a holistic approach. It’s high time we shift our focus to the root cause and allocate sufficient resources toward mental health care – a crucial area that has been woefully neglected for too long. Additionally, it’s imperative that we take swift action to prevent individuals who pose a threat to themselves or others from obtaining deadly firearms. We cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the dangers of certain types of weapons that have no legitimate place in the hands of civilians.
The brutal reality is that every day, countless human lives are snuffed out by this epidemic. It’s time for us to summon our courage and demonstrate true commitment, putting aside political affiliations and ideological biases to explore every viable solution. This crisis transcends partisan politics; it’s not a matter of red or blue, left or right. It is about the fundamental right of Americans to live in safety and security.
Osmund Agbo is a pulmonary physician.