In towns across the country, Memorial Day weekend was marked with parades honoring those who fought for our nation; flags fluttering from homes and storefronts; and backyard barbeques.
But for stunned residents of Isla Vista, home to UCSB, the holiday was filled with somber memorials for six students slaughtered by a disturbed young man. Though he had a history of mental problems, the killer legally acquired multiple guns used to mow down three of his victims and injure more. Unlike those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom, their deaths were utterly senseless.
Naively, perhaps, after the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, I believed our nation had the power to prevent future shootings. And so I sent checks to the Brady Campaign. I signed petitions for gun control reform, including more comprehensive background checks. I shared information on Facebook. I clung to President Obama’s vows that stricter gun control laws would be passed. I was sure that not even the mighty NRA could thwart the majority of Americans’ cry for similar changes.
But maybe I was wrong. The Isla Vista tragedy—the latest of more than 70 shootings on school campuses since Sandy Hook—is proof that little has changed. Though the gunman’s parents alerted authorities about their son’s plans weeks before his rampage, virtually nothing was done to stop him. The police checked in on him but failed to search his apartment where he’d stashed three semi-automatic weapons.
Nothing can replace the lives cut short in Isla Vista or erase the pain of the victims’ families and friends. At the very least, I hope what happened there will strengthen our resolve to demand stricter gun control laws.
Internet headlines and comments scream that the shooter was “a madman” and “insane.” Yes, we need better mental health screening and restraint options for individuals threatening to harm others. But the real insanity is continuing to pretend that easy access to guns isn’t what makes these massacres possible. The real insanity is for nothing to change and for Isla Vista to be just another mass shooting soon to be forgotten.