There are at least five operating gun stores in Uvalde, Texas, a small town that sits just 54 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. One of them, Oasis Outback, is a staple of the community and has been open for nearly two decades. According to the 2020 census, the population of Uvalde was just over 15,000, meaning there’s at least one gun store for every 3,000 people. Like many recent shooters, the gunman behind this latest tragedy — Salvador Ramos — purchased his guns legally. In this case, on the day of his 18th birthday.
At the time of writing, it’s been over two weeks since the shooting in Uvalde. Debates will continue to rage on, as they always do, about the shooter’s mental health, family history and personal trials and tribulations. In our collective attempts to rationalize hate, it’s only normal for us to look somewhere for answers. The less humane among us may, for instance, decide to play poker while their constituents bury their dead. I expect that, in recent weeks, thousands, maybe millions of people have weighed in on the shooting that took place at Robb Elementary School.
Some of them were featured on cable news channels looking to fill air time. Others posted their opinions on social media for the world to see. And some sat at the dinner table, with their families, to quietly discuss the day’s events. No matter the venue or the tenor of those opinions, the question at the root of all these discussions will be more or less the same: what can any of us do about this?
The answer, still, is very little. Between the trillion-dollar industry that is gun manufacturing, and the gun lobbyists hired to sell them, raging against that particular machine has proven to be very difficult, nigh impossible. Of the one billion guns in circulation around the globe, 42% of them are right here in the United States. There are, quite literally, more guns than people in this country, and that isn’t going to change any time soon. Even President Biden’s recent remarks, in which he questioned where our “backbone” is in standing up to gun lobbies, felt eerily hollow and rehearsed, as if everyone has been on autopilot since Sandy Hook.
Still, Biden’s remarks were striking in that they seemed to be the only ones centered on the violence itself, instead of the shooter’s motives. Where so many are preoccupied with filling in the narrative, shouldn’t we be focused on the problem itself? Salvador Ramos is dead, along with the children and teachers at which he pointed a gun and pulled the trigger. When does it stop mattering why he did it? When do we take real steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again?
Talking about gun violence is uncomfortable. It should be. Thinking about innocent children being gunned down in cold blood, in the supposed comfort and safety of their own schools no less, is heartbreaking. It should be. The further we complicate something so fundamental to our humanity — that being, of course, the fact that living, breathing children should not be murdered under any circumstances — the further we get from any real solution. Gun violence against children is unacceptable, how do we stop it? I may not have all the answers, but I know this is the only question I’m interested in.