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DON’T SHOOT THE MESSENGER: Stop and Listen

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Don't Shoot the MessengerOn December 11, 2012, a 22-year old man rushed into the mall at Clackamas Town Center and shot dead two people. Three days later, a 20-year-old man walked into an elementary school in Connecticut and shot 20 school children and six adult staff members.

In the aftermath, President Obama lamented that if those tragedies—and several other shootings in 2012—could not bring about sensible legislation, nothing could.

Since then? Very little has happened, legislatively speaking.

Unfortunately, though, school shootings have. 142.

Two weeks ago, a troubled young man shot nine students at Umpqua Community College. It was the forty-first school shooting in 2015, and the second in Oregon in two years year, as a high school shot another student and then himself at Reynolds High School on the outskirts of Portland, less than 20 miles away from Clackamas Town Center.  

We truly are at a loss for solutions. Many people have opinions, from one woman explaining in a forthcoming documentary about the Clackamas shooting, “My guns are pre-emptive, and my guns are mine,” to others pleading for stronger gun control laws.

In the months after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, a study by the Pew Charitable Trust analyzed nearly 21 million Twitter posts—and found that in the days immediately following the incident, pro-gun control sentiments dominated the national conversation. However, that sentiment soon faded—and returned to a split between those favoring more gun control and those defending gun ownership.

Yes, it is a divisive issue—with pushes for bans on assault rifles and background checks, and an equally hard push back against those regulations. In the week after the shooting, gun purchases and applications for concealed weapons continued to climb in Oregon.

The shooting in Roseburg presents a keenly sad example that lives are being lost during this stalemate. No, we will not present our ideas for solutions here because that seems akin to standing on the deck of the Titanic wondering why it is sinking, instead of running to the lifeboats.

In Oregon, the narrative arc since the shooting in Clackamas Town Center three years ago has been a legislative effort to push for background checks in Oregon. It is something that passed last session, but all lawmakers from Roseburg voted against—a decision we wonder whether they now stand by.  

But as many news outlets have pointed, gun control laws do not necessarily correspond with fewer shootings. Unfortunately, there does not seem to a direct link between stricter gun control laws and fewer shootings, as Oregon already has some reasonable restrictions on gun ownership, yet has suffered three major shootings in three years.

But one issue that seems to be constant is mental health is at the base of these crimes and shootings—and that needs to be addressed. Perhaps that is something we all can agree on.

Yes, a debate about guns in America is happening, but it is not a conversation. Opinions are being lobbed from every angle of this issue, but a real conversation about guns is not occurring. We hope that people can try to start understanding opposing viewpoints as a means for real dialogue about gun control and ownership.

Something needs to change.

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