Last week, a 26-year-old student at Umpqua Community College shot an assistant professor and eight students with automatic weapons and, after being wounded by police, fatally shot himself. In his statement to the press, President Obama acknowledged that this is becoming all too common in America. “Somehow this has become routine,” he said. After the attacks at Columbine and Sandy Hook, two of the most famous of school shootings in this country, this was the latest shooting to shock the nation into a state of sadness, unease and frustration. Yet, as always, the national conversation about common sense gun control remains stuck, fumbling behind massive NRA lobbying efforts, logical fallacies and the increasingly ridiculous comments of talking heads.
In the wake of the shooting, the president made a remark more strongly worded than ever before, calling for common sense gun laws. The debate is often distracted by calls for mental health reform or for even more guns in schools. The evidence for stricter gun regulation, however, is overwhelming. In Australia, after the Port Arthur massacre of 1996, the conservative government banned all automatic shotguns and rifles. Since then, the number of annual gun deaths in Australia has gone down dramatically. Despite that relevant example, calls to arms against arms, such as President Obama’s, are routinely ignored in favor of televised idiocy.
This time, presidential candidate Ben Carson led the idiocy by saying that armed Jews could have prevented the Holocaust. Despite how offensive, ridiculous and historically inaccurate that statement is, it marks an important part of the gun control debate routine. Whether we like it or not, Ben Carson is a presidential frontrunner in the Republican Party and has completely sidetracked any realistic debate on the issue. Instead, students who are actually affected by gun safety and regulation are stuck debating how ridiculous this man can get.
In recent years, Amherst College police have demonstrated their preparedness to handle potential shooter threats. Last year, the police ran a campus-wide shooter drill, and we have all received emails with instructions for dealing with an active shooter threat. Due to these efforts, this is an incredibly safe campus. Yet we shouldn’t get complacent, and the issue of gun control is far too important to be ignored by the student body.
The Amherst Student’s editorial board believes that a conversation must happen on campus and that students should collectively demand better, common sense gun control. It has become increasingly clear that campuses are not impenetrable. Students have to take action to stop violence in this country.