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Innocent families in California are in mourning yet again because of gun violence. On Nov. 7, 2018, 12 people were fatally shot by a gunman at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, CA. The shooting happened at 11:20 p.m. as the bar’s patrons were dancing and socializing. Authorities identified the shooter as Ian David Long, a 28-year-old Marine Corps veteran with a suspected history of mental health issues. Long used a .45 caliber Glock semi-automatic handgun with an extended magazine to shoot a security guard before entering the building, deploying a smoke bomb, and opening fire on everyone inside. Law enforcement arrived at the scene within minutes of the first emergency-calls and began exchanging fire with Long as hundreds of civilians fled the shooting. When the gunfight was over, Long himself was found dead from bullet-wounds in an! office within the bar.

Every Mass Shooting is One Too Many:

To describe gun violence in America as a tragedy would be an understatement. According to research conducted by the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 307 verified mass shooting incidents in 2018 – and counting. Just twelve days prior to Long’s attack, 11 worshipers were killed and six others were injured when a gunman opened fire in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA. Arguably the year’s most devastating shooting happened in February, when an active shooter took the lives of 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland, FL. Every time a catastrophe like this happens, there’s an endless circular debate about one basic question. Why? Why must mass shootings keep happening again and again?

Something Needs to be Done:

Most people want a clear-cut answer to this question. They want to be able to blame one specific element as the root cause of gun violence, assuming that having a clear scapegoat will make the problem easier to fix. But the truth is, gun violence is complex. It doesn’t have just one root cause. Rather, it’s the outcome of a cocktail of ignored problems and lapses in judgement. As complicated as gun violence may be, society no longer has the luxury of standing by while inaction allows innocent lives to get cut short in plain sight. Something needs to be done to address the fact that tens of thousands of people are either injured or killed every year because of preventable gun violence. Whether or not you are a proponent of the constitutional right to bear arms, it’s time to put aside hardline political positions and make compromises in order to make our communities safer. Shootings are no longer crimes that only happen in bad neighborhoods or dark alleyways. They happen in schools and places of worship. They happen at concerts and bars. If people no longer have the freedom to feel safe at places like these, then society is broken. Nobody expects you to have all the answers to the pandemic of gun violence, but here are some steps that would make a good start to solving this horrific problem:

1.       Alert Your Elected Officials:

Congress has the means and opportunity to implement transformational change in gun safety laws. You can provide the motive. Making a phone call or writing to your elected officials lets them know that this is an urgent issue, and it can incentivize them to explore ways in which to protect everyone from gun violence.

2.      Support Gun Safety Groups/Community Leaders:

Not everyone is standing by while gun violence claims lives. There are numerous existing organizations and community leaders who work ever day to keep neighborhoods safe from guns. Do some research on effective groups you can support, and enquire about how to help. You can opt to donate funds, or you can volunteer a helping hand personally. It may surprise you how much of a difference you can make by taking the time to get involved in your own community.

3.      Depoliticize the Gun Safety Debate:

Thanks to years of aggressive lobbying by advocacy groups like the National Rifle Association (NRA), the debate on gun safety has turned into a polarized partisan screaming match. Considering the fact that mass shooters don’t pause to ask victims about politics before pulling the trigger, you shouldn’t be looking for solutions based on political bias as well. If you hear a good idea – support it, no matter where it comes from. If you have to express your own opinions, keep them apolitical. Civility will do more to fix this mess than stubborn grandstanding

Safety isn’t a privilege, it’s a human right. For that matter, it’s a human right that should be guaranteed to everyone regardless of politics. The more people react to mass shootings with skepticism and apathy, the more we normalize what should be regarded by everyone as a heinous atrocity. It’s time to stop avoiding the menace of gun violence, and start coming up with lasting solutions to eliminate it. The only thing preventing this is our own willingness to try.