The Scarlet & Black

The Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Staff Editorial: Gun Violence after Vegas

Following the deadliest mass shooting in American history, The S&B has both a journalistic and moral obligation to confront the pervasiveness of gun violence in our society. The massacre at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas is of a sort that remains all too common in the United States. In any other mature democracy, the death of at least 58 people and injury of at least 515 others in a mass shooting would be a call to action. There would be meaningful declarations of “never again,” as people mourned the deaths of their countrymen. There would be calls for impactful policy change and legislation that weren’t hollow and infeasible. There would be no political cowardice in the face of massive vested interests and gun lobbies. There would be a great coming together of people, a unity that transcends whatever evil caused the death of so many. 

But we do not live in such a nation. Rather, we live in a place soaked in gun violence. No other comparable country has this problem with such regularity. Being killed with a gun in Japan is as likely as being killed by a lightning strike in the United States. The 1996 Port Arthur Massacre in Australia brought that nation to pass sweeping, bipartisan gun control legislation. The Australian government restricted and in some cases banned the ownership of assault weapons and bought back half of the country’s guns. 

After decades of mass shootings, what concrete solutions does the United States have to show for it? Even though practical gun policies enjoy bipartisan public support, we apparently lack the political wherewithal to make coherent policy. Potentially dangerous people can still buy guns. There exists no real system for universal background checks on gun buyers. The S&B thus condemns the continued lack of response by elected officials to the epidemic of gun violence in the United States. 

What is to account for our national inability to tackle this issue? One aspect is our desensitization to gun violence, a phenomenon which stretches locally to Grinnell. Our community is home to Brownells, the self-described “World’s Largest Supplier of Gun Parts.” On their interactive website, one can purchase the parts required for an AR-15, one of the weapons used in the Las Vegas shooting. The presence of Brownells in town was met with suspicion when their Grinnell distribution center opened in 2013, but has seemingly been forgotten as it has become a fixture in our community.

The CEO of Brownells, Pete Brownell, also serves as president of the National Rifle Association. He is the recipient of the NRA’s “Golden Ring of Freedom,” which recognizes his donation of over $1 million. But the NRA is not the only beneficiary of his apparent generosity. He has donated considerable sums to the Grin City Collective, the Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation and other such local causes. His charity is willingly accepted by the College as well, which seemingly contradicts our commitment to social justice. The College’s Ignite Institute for young people was funded in part by a gift from Brownell. According to the NRA Ring of Freedom site, College faculty visited Brownells for a day at the shooting range and “left … giddy with excitement.” Brownell’s charity is embraced by our college community despite his controversial business and role in the NRA. It is with these facts in mind that the S&B reminds our community that gun culture and violence are never too far beyond the surface of society, and that Grinnell is no exception. Our nation, our community and our college are seemingly entangled  with guns, but that should not discourage us from taking action.

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