In his 1963 song, “Blowin’ in the Wind,” Bob Dylan pleads, “How many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died?” While they were likely meant to address the Vietnam War at the time they were written, these words could just as well be addressed to all of us today regarding our current gun violence epidemic. The recent mass shootings in Atlanta, Orange County, California, and Boulder, Colorado, have once again reminded us of this epidemic, which has apparently failed to magically disappear with time.
These seemingly routine outbursts of violence speak to several issues that currently plague our society: intense isolation, an increasing embracement of extremist ideologies, a lack of mental health resources, easy access to deadly firearms and a political system that seems increasingly unable to adequately address these issues. It feels at times as though this vicious cycle is just a part of life — something to get used to — and that the next mass shooting will inevitably come in just a matter of time. It feels like, maybe, this is just our new normal.
However, this type of defeatist attitude must be avoided. Moments like this should call us to action, not apathy. We can do much more than we currently are to prevent gun violence in this country. We can choose to have more sensible gun laws. We can invest more in mental health services. We can get rid of procedural roadblocks, such as the Senate filibuster, that prevent reform. We can do more to reach the lost in our society on a personal level. While these efforts would by no means eradicate all gun violence in this country, they would help make a difference. They would save lives.
I am well aware of the controversial nature of the gun control debate in this country, and I do not wish to merely push any partisan agenda here. I simply seek to say that the conversation on how we can better prevent these tragedies from occurring, along with preventing routine gun violence in general, is a conversation that we need to be having. And it is a conversation that we must ensure ends with meaningful changes. It is one thing to have a series of mass shootings take place; it is another thing to watch these unfold and make no serious effort to prevent future ones from happening. We can do better.
In addition to reigniting the gun control debate, the Atlanta shootings, whose victims were almost all women of Asian descent, have prompted a greater national awareness of anti-Asian violence and racism. Anti-Asian prejudice and abuse in America is nothing new, and it has unfortunately been worsened ever since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Too often are Asian Americans marginalized and mistreated in our culture. We can do better.
As painful and heartbreaking as these mass shootings are, they become all the more depressing when we fail to take meaningful steps toward preventing a future attack. Let us come together and begin to develop comprehensive and effective solutions that could help save the lives of potential future victims.