When rights collide with social responsibility

We have all heard or seen something on the events that took place in Christchurch, New Zealand on Friday, March 15. It was a horrifying event that shook the world. But what shook me was the response of the New Zealand people and government.

In almost a week, they have dedicated themselves to ensuring that something like the events of March 15 are not duplicated. A gun buy-back program was started within two days, along with a bill that will ban semi-automatic “assault” style weapons.

Meanwhile, here in America, there is a new mass shooting almost every week, and we have done nothing.

Whether at a school such as Parkland, Sandy Hook, or Columbine; or in a public setting, such as the Las Vegas shooting, Pulse nightclub or Aurora Theater, we do nothing; we send thoughts and prayers, and turn on the news for us all to be told it has nothing to do with the gun but with the user.

That’s a fine argument, but we do nothing to curtail mentally ill individuals from buying firearms, or in general addressing their mental health.

I am no expert on either firearms or mental health, but it stands to reason we, as a country, need to address and tackle both issues.

I always think back to after the Parkland shooting in Florida, and how survivors got together as victims and activists to help change the policies that govern the way firearms and mental health are treated.

As a result, they were ridiculed by reporters, political pundits and, of course, by an NRA spokesperson who showed no sympathy or remorse for what those kids went through and thousands of others have gone through.

Do I blame guns? No, not really, but I feel that we should think about the types of weapons the general public should have access to, and whether those weapons should be available to someone with a serious mental disorder because in many states they are.

So, why did New Zealand respond so quickly while we twiddle our thumbs on this issue?

The big one, in my opinion, is the gun lobbyists in Washington D.C. who in turn use campaign contributions to sway our elected officials to not pay attention to the problem but to just defend guns no matter what.

I do not believe the AR-15 belongs in the public domain, but in the hands of our local and federal law enforcement agencies and our armed forces as they were designed for.

Plus, we need to have a discussion about the purchase of the firearm and who is allowed to buy such weapons.

A thorough background check seems like the most reasonable thing, and not stigmatizing mental health but engaging in the discussion about it and addressing it.

I believe we have a responsibility, as a society, to fix this problem, but I am afraid now that we have let these headlines of mass shooting sink into our zeitgeist and after a day it is brushed under the rug.