Close to home: The Naval Yard shooting is a somber reminder

It felt like déjà vu. Sitting on the floor of the Kappa Delta house, glued to CNN, watching another act of homegrown terrorism broadcast live on the news. The same scene played itself out last April, the afternoon of the Boston Marathon Bombing, and the December a few months before that, when a gunman opened fire on Sandy Hook Elementary School.

In recent years, the United States has witnessed mass shootings on an army base, in a movie theater, in shopping malls, in schools, in universities, and now, at a naval facility. Elementary school students being gunned down in a classroom and government workers dodging bullets at work should not be a reality in the most prominent democracy in the free world.

The current murder rate in the United States is three times that in any other developed nation. Every day, on average, 32 citizens are murdered and 51 people kill themselves using a gun.  While mass shootings such as what we witnessed last week are the exception, these massacres makes you really wonder why Americans still hold the Second Amendment so dear.

There is an old saying: If you’re not a liberal in your 20’s, you don’t have a heart, and if you’re still a liberal when you are 30, you have no brain. So this could all just be generational rumination. I have always valued the freedoms that come along with limited government power and the expanded societal freedoms that follow. But, when an idealized freedom hurts society more than it helps, it is time to rethink policy.

During a speech at the Navy Yard memorial this past Sunday, U.S. President Barack Obama called for a change in gun laws in the United States.

“What is different in America is that it is easy to get your hands on a gun,” the President said.

Through a quick Google search, a student at the College of William and Mary can find 18 gun retailers in the Williamsburg area. According to the College Student Handbook, any student who wishes to posses an object that may be deemed a “weapon” must seek approval from the Dean of Students Office prior to bringing the object to campus.

In February 2012, the Virginia legislature repealed legislation passed in the early 1990s that limited an individual’s handgun purchase to one per month. Gov. Bob McDonnell, R-Va., signed this legislation just a few years after the Virginia Tech massacre. It makes you wonder why anyone would need more than one handgun per month in the name of self-defense.

The National Rifle Association has nearly five million members nationwide, and millions more own and use guns. People make excuses. They say that those who open fire on innocent people have mental health issues, and that those issues should be examined first. They say that good people with guns stop the bad people with guns.

While chatting on the Terrace a week after the Naval Yard shooting, a friend remarked how calloused we have all become toward these mass shootings. We all spoke about the Naval Yard shooting for a few days, but now, one week and 12 funerals later, the incident seems out of sight and out of mind here in Williamsburg. Business goes on as usual, undisturbed.

“Sometimes I fear there’s a creeping resignation that these tragedies are just somehow the way it is, that this is somehow the new normal,” Obama said.

But there is nothing normal about this, and America shouldn’t accept this norm anymore.

Graduation is in May. I will no longer be watching the news from the Kappa Delta living room. How many more tragedies will we watch play out on the evening news between now and then? How much more callous can we get about these tragedies? But most importantly, how long until things change?

After Obama’s speech Sunday, he said the Naval Yard shooting was his final straw. What’s yours?

Ariel Cohen is a Confusion Corner columnist.


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