White men can be terrorists too

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Illustration by Aaron Ughoc

It’s time to acknowledge and identify the repetitive profile of mass shooters in the United States

Sandy Hook, Charleston, Las Vegas, Umpqua, Sutherland Springs, and so on. The emotional wounds have hardly begun to heal from the last mass shooting when the next one takes place. People in this country are dying because hateful, calloused individuals are collecting arsenals of weapons and slaughtering their fellow citizens.

After every shooting, calls for gun reform are rebuked as being insensitive to the victims and those affected by these horrific acts of violence whose deaths “should not be politicized.” Thoughts and prayers are sent. Republicans in Congress tell us nothing could have been done to prevent the murders from happening. Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Paul Ryan said Texas church shooter Devin Kelley shouldn’t have had the ability to purchase firearms, and the existing laws should have been enforced.

However, even if the laws in place had been enforced, it would still not have been enough. Most incidents of domestic violence aren’t reported, and even if they were, violent men still wouldn’t be prevented from purchasing guns. If an individual is prevented from owning a gun, are we going to follow through and confiscate the guns they already hold?

Domestic terrorism committed by white, middle-aged men is not being taken seriously or called for what it is. This is a problem that demands attention, and we as a country are failing the victims of violence by not even trying to figure out how to prevent these tragedies from happening over and over again.

Mass shootings rooted in domestic violence

Over 50 percent of mass shooters have histories of domestic violence. Paul Ryan is right that there are laws that try to make it more difficult for people with violent pasts who’ve committed domestic abuse to get guns. The Air Force failed to follow Pentagon protocol that would have prevented Devin Kelley from purchasing guns, but someone just forgot to file the paperwork. Will the Air Force be held responsible for the deaths of 26 people in Sutherland Springs? Probably not. Stop passing the blame, and start taking responsibility.

The laws Paul Ryan refers to are not effective, nor is the enforcement of them. Boyfriends and stalkers are not included in the domestic abusers that would be excluded from gun ownership. A bill was introduced in 2015 to help correct this problem but has literally gone nowhere. Even if all of these violent men were entered into a database, claiming they would have been prevented from owning a gun by background checks is bullshit.

Some 22 percent of people undergo no background checks when purchasing a gun. Let’s be generous and say this study is incorrect. Even if 50 percent of people didn’t have a background check when acquiring a gun, that’s still a one in two chance that if you wanted to own a gun to murder a bunch of people, you could. This means if you were a violent person who is a part of this database but just tried a few places and a couple dealers at a gun show, you’d probably end up owning your very own AR-15 in no time.

Take their guns away

People with violent histories not only need to be prevented from buying guns but also need to have their guns taken away. In 41 states there is no requirement for domestic abusers to turn in previously purchased guns. You might not be able to buy that shiny new AR-15, but you can keep the shotguns and pistols you’ve already bought. Paul Ryan is either smart by excluding these facts, or he is a fool who refuses to look into the actual policies that currently exist.

Trump claimed that Sutherland Springs was not a “guns situation” when it absolutely was. Loopholes and mistakes will keep happening if people are not being held accountable for their failure to address these issues. Republican voters need to hold their officials accountable for failing to be honest with them about what gun laws exist and how dismal the enforcement practices in place are. Democrats have been pushing for gun reform, but Republicans won’t sit at the table to talk about it. No one is trying to steal a peaceful person’s guns, but we don’t want the violent Kelleys, Mateens, Paddocks and Roofs to have them.

Good guy with a gun not enough

The never-ending argument that good guys with guns stop bad guys with guns is foolish. The good guys didn’t show up in Las Vegas until 500 people had been injured and another 58 were killed. The good guys were only able to step in after Kelley had killed 26 and wounded 20 others. The good guys aren’t stopping these deaths from happening, and relying on them to be able to step in after dozens of people have been shot is not a morally responsible strategy. I don’t want a good guy with a gun to save my life after my family has been murdered. I don’t want my family to be murdered in the first place.

Take white terrorists seriously

Christopher Estes is a white man who planted a bomb at an airport and may see only 10 years in prison. Harlem Suarez, a Cuban-American, got a terrorism charge and life in prison after the Federal Bureau of Investigation pushed him into purchasing the fake bomb that his indictment called a “weapon of mass destruction.” We respond differently to different types of terrorism, but we need to take them all seriously. A live bomb at an airport is worse than a fake one, right?

When a Muslim from Uzbekistan drove a truck onto a bike path and killed eight people, it was called a terrorist incident, and Trump vowed to step up “extreme vetting” to prevent ISIS from coming to the U.S. But when a white man killed 26 people in a church, the country has basically vowed to not doing anything to prevent it from happening again.

When Omar Mateen killed 50 people at a gay nightclub and pledged allegiance to foreign terrorists, we took it seriously. When Dylan Roof wrote a racist manifesto, we refused to look at white supremacy as a source of terrorism. We need to stop insulting the dead by refusing to believe that terrorists can be homegrown; white men can obviously be domestic terrorists, too. We need to make the same effort to prevent the Paddocks, Roofs, and Kelleys as we do the Mateens, Suarezes, and Saipovs.

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