As a rising junior in college, I am deeply concerned about the mass shootings in our communities. As a student of both criminology and political science, I thought it would be helpful to share some of my classroom knowledge so we as a country can come to grips with mass violence.
The first step we can all take is a bit counterintuitive in today’s mass media climate: share only what must be known. Spreading information about the killer’s motives, background and manifesto only give others the road map and justification for future violence. If you witness a mass shooting, do not post the video on Facebook. Publishing video of the killer’s face or the terror they cause only communicates to at-risk individuals that they will be a sensation. As much as we may think that getting the word out will prevent a future incident, it may be making the problem worse.
The next step is to advocate for change using your voice as a citizen of this country. Call out these incidents what they are: domestic terrorism. We need to elect leaders who do not elevate themselves by expressing hate against those at the bottom. The language that leaders use is important and if those leaders use veiled racism to shore up support, it is more likely that mass violence will occur.
We also need to fight to make sure that individuals are thoroughly vetted before they purchase firearms. Today, anyone can walk into some gun shows and buy any model of gun without any formal background check. That is alarming and I don’t think it’s controversial to expect someone purchasing a firearm to be fully evaluated. These checks should include sweeps of their social media. Many of these killers express far-right/white nationalist views on social media before they commit their attacks. Flagging suspected white nationalists could prevent the next mass shooting.
Red flag laws should also be in place. They would enable law enforcement to remove firearms from individuals whom the police, a judge or a medical professional have determined are likely to commit some form of violence.
Lastly, we should ban the sales of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. I am aware that these terms are ambiguous, but everyone knows what kind of guns these are: they shoot with minimal pause in between trigger pulls, hold scores of bullets and have enormous stopping power. These weapons, whether we want to admit it or not, enable disturbed individuals to walk into an elementary school and slaughter children. Single-action pistols and knives cannot accomplish what semi-automatic weapons can and that is undeniable. Take them off the shelves!
If we follow all of these steps, I am confident that gun violence will drop. Now it’s time to put these steps in place and keep our communities safe.
Kyle Hylan-Corcoran of Bangor is a student at American University.