Instances where four or more people are shot are categorized as mass shootings. Since Jan. 1, of this year, there have been 255 in this country. That is more than one per day. In most mass killings, semi-automatic assault weapons are the firearm of choice for shooters as they plan their attacks on innocent people.
Semi-automatic firearms are designed to kill as many people as quickly as possible. Their bullets are intended to inflict as much damage as quickly as possible. In El Paso last week, the shooting lasted less than 5 minutes; in Dayton, the spree lasted 31 seconds. In total, 31 people were murdered, and 54 people were critically wounded.
These firearms share most of the same characteristics as the weapons used in war, and should be considered and referred to as weapons of war. Shooters use these firearms to commit atrocities in our cities, our streets, our civic centers, our places of worship, our shops, our theaters and our schools.
Reluctantly, I have watched many of the videos that have surfaced of mass shootings, and all of them remind me of my childhood in Gaza and the war zone that I grew up in. The footage evokes memories I have spent the majority of my life trying to forget and disown. I see confusion, panic, and fear. I see powerless, innocent people suddenly come under fire, gunned down and murdered. I see people screaming, running for their lives, taking shelter under a table or a fixture they know won't protect them, praying for help they know won't come quickly enough.
I see the aftermath of these mass shootings: victims' bodies with holes punched through them. I see bodies that, moments ago, were perfectly able, transformed into still corpses lying dead in pools of blood. I see witnesses, first responders, and survivors; I also see the faces of the loved ones sitting at home that day — the parents, siblings, spouses, friends, and partners whose lives were also destroyed with those firearms. I know that, like me, their lives will never be the same. They will never un-live this experience. They will never forget. How could you?
In some lawless parts of the world, for people to protect themselves, their tribes and their territories, it might be necessary for people to own weapons of war. That is not the case here in the United States of America. Here, in the greatest country on Earth, a country of laws and civility, no one needs weapons of war to protect themselves, their family or their assets. No one should fear that they or their loved ones might be a victim of a mass shooting when they close the door and leave for the day. America is not a war zone, and weapons of war do not belong here.
For our safety and the safety of others, we submit, without question or even much thought in fact, often with grace, understanding, and gratitude, to being searched and scanned before we board a plane. While the search itself is inconvenient and conflicts with how we, as Americans, value our freedom and liberty, gun advocates and gun opponents, gun owners and those who disown guns, all submit to being searched and scanned because all of us saw what happened on September 11th.
All of us saw a tragedy. All of us saw the death and destruction. All of us have accepted that times have changed and that we must change with them — that for the safety of ourselves and of all others we had to adopt a new mindset, change our laws, and follow a new process.
There is nothing different about semi-automatic and automatic firearms. For our safety and the safety of all others, these weapons of war should be banned unilaterally from our streets and cities. We can and must come to a consensus to adopt common-sense gun laws while protecting the rights of law-abiding and responsible gun owners; we can and must come to a consensus to protect the Second Amendment while also protecting the people the amendment serves in the first place.
The American people don't exist to protect outdated laws. Our laws exist to protect the American people. They exist so we can prosper and live together in peace and without fear. And when these laws fail to protect us, it is time to change the laws.
Anan Abu-Taleb is the mayor of the village of Oak Park.
Answer Book 2019
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