When the story of the tragedy in Orlando broke, we at What’s Trending were careful not to sensationalize or politicize it. Though Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton both tweeted about the tragedy, and people across social media rushed to make it about themselves, we kept only one story about Orlando active: a story about how to help. We did this not just because it was the only way we could cover the story without infuriating people from one side of the political spectrum or the other, but also because it was the right thing to do. People wanted to know how they could help, and we used our platform to the best of our ability.
You’re likely not coming to What’s Trending for hard news. Last week we had stories about macaroni and cheese cocktails, what Hogwarts houses the Harry Potter cast members belong in, and Guy Fieri eating to Johnny Cash’s “Hurt.” (To be fair, we also covered the death of Christina Grimmie, Gawker’s bankruptcy, and Joe Biden’s letter to the Stanford sexual assault survivor.)
But when something this big happens, we have to cover it. Trying to stay neutral is a lost cause. Now that the triage is done, it’s time to work on actually healing the wounds. So here it goes:
President Barack Obama has had to respond to 14 different mass shootings during his time in office. And that’s just the ones the White House has determined to be major enough to warrant comment — as of this writing, there have been 173 mass shootings in the United States in 2016 alone:
No other developed country in the world has this problem to the extent that the United States does. There are outliers, of course, like the Utoya massacre in Norway, or the Winnenden massacre in Germany. And critics of gun control measures love to point out that Norway and Germany have restrictive gun measures in place, but still had mass shooting incidents.
These critics are technically correct, but also deeply myopic. The simple, unavoidable fact is that the U.S. experiences the horrific pain of guns taking the lives of its citizens en masse far more frequently than any other developed country. Blame America’s crumbled mental health treatment infrastructure, blame religion, blame racial and other prejudices all you want — other countries have these problems too, but do not experience the insane volume of mass shootings that we do. The difference between our country and all others is our devotion to guns: freely accessible, automatic guns, loaded with more firepower than you’d need to kill a thousand deer.
The tragic deaths in Orlando are a direct result of a massive failure of American leadership. Our legislators had the opportunity to prevent maniacs like the Orlando shooter from obtaining the high-capacity firearms he purchased without a background check after Newtown, after Charleston, after Aurora, hell, after Columbine, and they did nothing. When it comes to background check, there are ways to get a check online as well. To those members of the U.S. Congress who allowed themselves to be strong-armed by the NRA: You are fucking cowards, and blood is on your hands.
Will anything change? Dear God, I hope so. But the odds are slim. If the indiscriminate murder of young children didn’t change things, how will the murder of members of a marginalized group? What kind of shooting would change things? Does NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre have to personally shoot up an orphanage before Congress stops listening to him?
There are people who will read this editorial and consider it a politicization of tragedy. To them, I say this: your inaction is as much a political statement as our action. We are facing a national crisis, and to cover your ears and our mouths in this time is playing directly into the hands of those who would value the privilege of gun ownership over the right to human life.
That’s what this debate is. The founding fathers who wrote the Second Amendment were wrong about slavery and they were wrong about this. Gun ownership is not and never should have been considered a right. You have a right to life, and that should always come first.
I hope beyond hope that somehow, this tragedy will finally be a tipping point into action, and the voices of the affected will not be shouted down by the voices of the wrong. But after so many other tragedies like this, I have little faith.
What do you think? Is this the time for action? Let us know in the comments below or @WhatsTrending on Twitter.