*They, Them, Their are used as preferred gender identification*
Travis Anthony always had three weapons with them at all times in Afghanistan and Iraq. A former forward observer for the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division from 2000-2004, Anthony slept with their weapons, always loaded, and ready to engage if necessary.
But, they said, the military also emphasized the importance of safety and how to handle these weapons responsibly. Anthony in part regards this education as a reason why they never saw a soldier go on a rampage and shoot other soldiers: Weapons are not that “cool anymore when you’re around them so much,” they said.
Yet, that makes them marvel even more at the recent mass-shooting in Las Vegas that left 58 people dead and hundreds injured, after a gunman rained gunfire down from the 32nd floor of his Las Vegas hotel room onto a crowd at a country music festival.
The shooting, the deadliest in recent U.S. history, has reverberated through the nation for weeks now. The American flag flew at half-mast, commemorating the people who lost their lives. The recent tragedy also rekindled the debate about gun control and how to prevent another mass-shooting — a seemingly never-ending debate that resurfaces after every such shooting.
“I don’t know, it’s too confusing a situation. I think there should be responsibilities that come from owning weapons,” Anthony, now an international relations major at SF State, said.
“We can talk forever about it and never really get anywhere, other than to say, ‘guns make it easier for people to kill people.’ We [have] gun laws, and this person slipped through the cracks.”
For many, the debate surrounding guns and gun control is not as easy as simply banning all firearms — especially because of the Second Amendment — but instead is a topic that requires productive conversations.
Ari Kolokithas, a retired police officer and gun shop owner in San Jose, California, echoes the concern over lost dialogue when it comes to guns in the U.S.
“If you listen to one side or the other, there [are] good points on both sides, but nobody is listening anymore,” Kolokithas said. “People are falling into their emotions rather than listening to any kind of logic from the other side; people have tuned each other out — and that’s a bad thing [because] we want these open [ideas].”
Kolokithas said that people need to focus more on how to prevent incidents like the Las Vegas shooting from happening rather than slipping into the narrative of banning all guns. He emphasized that not everyone should have guns, and that some regulations will work, but criminals, nevertheless, will still use guns, legally or illegally.
“If we said guns are illegal tomorrow, honest people would follow (that) law, dishonest people [wouldn’t] and there would still be guns,” Kolokithas said. “Is the solution more laws — what will they do?”
Kolokithas said he has been around guns for “forever.” It’s part of the American culture — a fiber woven into the country’s foundation. He also believes that with its foundation comes a responsibility to educate one another about gun safety and have discussions. Kolokithas also suggested more safety programs.
According to a report by the Pew Research Center, 48 percent of adults in the U.S. say they grew up in households with guns. “And roughly seven in ten — including 55% of those who have never personally owned a gun — say they have fired a gun at some point.”
The same report stated that 74 percent of gun owners view guns as “essential to their freedom” and, overall, owners and non-owners agreed that it was one of their “top-tier constitutional rights.”
Gun laws consist of federal and state laws, with the latter varying based on the state. And in thecase of the Las Vegas shooter, it appears he passed both federal and state law.
Unlike Nevada, for example, California has some of the strictest gun regulations in the nation, which include, according to Kolokithas, a 10-day waiting period for all purchases of firearms.
But for Adrian Cuyson, an Asian American studies major at SF State, the debate of guns in the U.S. is one with many nuances.
“I think people should think of the context that the [Second Amendment] was written in — is it really applicable for times today and especially in today’s political and socio-economic climate?” Cuyson asked.
For him, the identity of the shooter often caters into how discussions play out after a shooting like Vegas.
“It really depends on the narrative and context. If it wasn’t a white male holding that gun, they would treat [the Las Vegas shooting] differently. They are focusing on small details instead of looking at the bigger picture that [he] just killed a bunch of people. What can we do to make sure that this s–t doesn’t happen again?” Cuyson said.
As a result of shifting narratives, Cuyson believes a failure to have meaningful discussions arises.
“There’s always these dialectical forces going back and forth, and I think that is one of the issues,” Cuyson said. “ You have shootings like Sandy Hook that killed 20 [children] and [if] that’s not enough for the government to change its outlook on gun laws and ownership then I don’t know what’s going to change it.”
Whether new gun policies will come out in the months to follow is not yet clear.
Anthony said you can’t “lump all Americans” into the same bag when it comes to guns. It’s a “delicate issue,” as they put it, and one that is complex. Yet, Anthony also believes that solutions are needed.
“When there’s lots of guns, any gun … it’s inherent [that] something can happen,” Anthony said. “We have a gun culture in America that stems from our amendments from the founding of America — and that’s not going to go away. It is ingrained in [the] human character of the American identity. This is our right to defend ourselves, but I don’t know if that means you need to have [certain weapons].
“It’s a touchy [subject]. What can you do? I wish that we could just get rid of weapons all together and just figure out how to get along and have some diplomacy. I think that should be [an] emphasis.”