In the past eight days, California has suffered four mass shootings. On Monday, seven people were injured, one was killed at an Oakland gas station and seven lives were lost as agricultural workers were gunned down at their workplace in Half Moon Bay. On Saturday, 11 people were murdered in Monterey Park after Lunar New Year celebrations at a dance hall the shooter attended. And last Monday, a shooting in Goshen, California claimed six lives, including a teenage mother and her baby.
As communities wrestle with this unbearable grief, the nation must face serious implications brought forth by the recent massacres. What stands out about the Half Moon Bay and Monterey shooters is that they were both elderly. The Half Moon Bay suspect was 66, and the Monterey Park suspect was 72.
Much of society does not view elderly people as serious threats. But anyone with a firearm can become lethal. For example, a 6-year-old student shot his teacher at a school in Virginia using a handgun his mother had legally purchased.
As opposed to weapons like knives, guns have a unique capacity to kill large groups of people in a short amount of time from a distance, making shooters difficult to disarm. This calls into question a common saying that has been used as a rebuttal to gun control measures: "Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People."
Another common rebuttal to more extensive firearm restrictions is the idea that mental health is the culprit behind gun violence. But as stated by Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, who went viral for his speech following the Uvalde Shooting, "We don’t have any more mental illness than any other country in the world … we’re not an outlier on mental illness. We’re an outlier when it comes to access to firearms … That’s what makes America different."
After a devastating 2019 shooting in Dayton, the American Psychological Association released a statement that said, "routinely blaming mass shootings on mental illness is unfounded and stigmatizing." Therefore, it is important to shift the blame for gun violence from mental illness to easy gun accessibility in America.
To be a little more specific, mental health is a serious issue in which people can still be dangerous to themselves or others. It is important for mental health resources to be increased and to be less stigmatized. But even if mental health is improved, gun violence will still persist.
Guns are deeply ingrained into American culture through the Second Amendment. But even as gun control has been more widely embraced in modern times, some Americans have taken comfort in the fact that their specific state may have stricter gun laws. It seems as if this possibility can no longer serve as a blanket of security.
California was ranked as the state with the strictest gun laws in the United States for 2023. To date, California has a ban on assault weapons, a red flag law, a 10-day waiting period for all gun purchases, universal background checks, mental health reporting and a 21-year-old age requirement.
New Jersey similarly has strict gun laws, and a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll in collaboration with the New Jersey Gun Violence Research Center found that more than 72 percent of New Jerseyans are "very concerned" about mass shootings. Yet the most common response when asked about the primary cause of gun violence was related to mental health issues or treatment.
If these devastating shootings can happen in states with the strictest gun laws, they can happen anywhere in the United States, inciting overwhelming fear in all communities.
The effectiveness of gun control laws should not be overlooked. Many key California gun control laws were implemented in the early 1990s, and there has been a significant correlation observed between the existence of these laws and the California firearm mortality rate. "From 1993 to 2017, California’s firearm mortality rate declined by 55 percent — almost four times the decrease in the rest of the nation."
Though, if mass shootings are still able to happen at this frightening frequency, these laws are not enough.
The goal for the United States has always seemed to be to conserve the Second Amendment as much as possible while implementing widely accepted reforms, such as background checks. But at this point, the goal of the United States government and wider culture needs to change. Too many communities have been affected, too many young lives have been lost and too many families have been destroyed.
Instead of the United States doing everything in its power to preserve the Second Amendment, it should focus on taking action to ban guns entirely and as soon as possible. This argument can be easily dismissed as too radical, standing no chance at bipartisan support nor collaboration.
Realistically, a national scenario in which guns would be eradicated from society would have to happen in gradual stages. It would need to begin with limiting access to guns and addressing the issue of the black market before considering an America without guns.
But ultimately, America needs to identify gun accessibility as the issue responsible for gun violence. Once guns are seen as the main culprit, a collective national goal can be pursued in which firearms are not needed.
The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 154th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.