Empty Promises Won’t End the Violence

Last week President Obama made a speech promising empty solutions to all the mass shootings.  Just like after every other mass shooting, we are fed the same debates about gun access and video games that never go anywhere or change anything. The politicians and the media always talk about these killings like they are isolated problems, only the fault of single individuals who have “snapped” or criminals bent on committing evil. But in reality these killings are the expected outcome of living in such a violent society.

In his speech, Obama announced some symbolic laws to try to give us a feeling of being safer, promising smaller ammo magazines that would make it so shooters would have to reload sooner before killing more people, and an assault rifle ban even though any weapon used for violence becomes an assault weapon. He even paid lip-service to addressing gun violence and the mental health problem in America saying he would “direct the Centers for Disease Control to go ahead and study the best ways to reduce it.” Like we don’t already know what’s wrong.

Unfortunately, the Newtown massacre is part of a longer list of mass killings that is becoming all-too-familiar in the United States. Just last year there were massacres at a Sikh Temple as well as a spa in Wisconsin, a movie theater in Colorado, a mall in Portland, a sign business in Minnesota and a vocational college here in Oakland.

So many shootings in so little time point to a deeper problem than the individual shooter. As a society we are more and more disconnected and isolated from each other and people are becoming increasingly desperate as things only continue to get harder everyday.

Given how isolated so many of us are, it’s not surprising that in fact most gun-related deaths in the U.S. aren’t even homicides – they’re actually suicides, over 38,000 per year. Of that total, every day an average 18 U.S. veterans commit suicide, which is now the primary cause of death for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

And in our neighborhoods, our lives are wrecked with violence on a daily basis. But there are no presidential speeches where we live. These murders are expected and accepted since they happen mostly in poorer neighborhoods. Our communities are already condemned and thrown away, as if that is where the violence belongs anyways.

Just between Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose homicides rose 52 percent in the last two years alone, with Oakland ending last year with 131 killings. Chicago had over four times that number at 513 – the same number of those killed in mass shootings in the U.S. over the last 20 years combined!

Our neighborhoods were already devastated well before gun control debates. The violence is getting worse as more resources are being taken away from our communities, with school closures and non-stop cuts to social services. In the last four years alone states have slashed mental healthcare by a combined $4 billion. Chicago, with the highest murder rate, has seen half of the public health clinics shut their doors as people need them most.

This violence isn’t a mystery. We don’t need more research into the problem. What we need is a society where we actually have time to live our lives, spend time with our loved ones, and even do things we actually enjoy. But instead we’re forced to suffer alone in our own despair.

This is why there is a debate on gun control. Politicians can’t talk about the underlying causes because this society is the underlying cause, and their job is to keep it this way. The gun control debate is nothing but a distraction to shift the blame from the destruction of our communities and blame the problem on us. To solve these problems would be simple. But for a society to represent the majority it would have to be run by the majority.