Heartbroken by mass shootings, we need to be prepared

Yumeno Matsuo

Whenever I hear the news about another mass shooting, my heart breaks. It’s been over two years since I moved from Japan and started living in the U.S., and I feel the frequent shootings cast a shadow on this country.

What I should have attended this quarter is “Run, Hide, Defend: Assailant Training” hosted by the Foothill-De Anza Community College District Police Department on May 16. I strongly believe that all students, teachers and staff should attend this training because the number of shootings in the U.S. has been increasing at a record-breaking pace since the beginning of 2023.

As a student in Santa Clara County, West Valley College’s lockdown in March, because of armed intruders, led me to think I had to do something to protect myself.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, the U.S. has already been shaken by 269 mass shooting incidents since the beginning of 2023, and that number is continuing to increase. This means that on average, shootings happen more than once a day, causing me to feel as though the next victim may be myself or people around me.

About 20,000 people in total were killed by gunfire in the U.S. last year. In just the last five months,17,000 people have already been killed as a result of gun violence. 

When I first examined this data for 2022, I was surprised by the differences in deaths between the U.S. and Japan. According to the National Police Agency, only four people in my home country were killed by gun violence. Unfortunately, this included former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Abe’s assassination shook me because I believed shootings rarely occurred in Japan, and the possibility of the murder of a prominent government member is almost zero. The incident makes me feel that Japan is no longer a safe country.

The difference between the deaths in the two countries is caused by the number of guns legally owned by citizens.

According to CNN, there were 120 guns per 100 people in the U.S. in 2018; there were an estimated 0.25 guns per 100 people in Japan that same year. This is a result of Japan’s strict gun control laws, making it rare to meet people who own guns.

Although the Second Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms, no one should be murdered by assault weapons.

One solution for decreasing deaths by gun violence without violating the right to bear arms is banning assault weapons like the AR-15, which inflicts severe damage on organs and bones. Since the bullets from an AR-15 travel at a high speed, these weapons are particularly lethal to higher numbers of people. 

Opponents argue that there is no use in banning assault weapons to reduce shootings because perpetrators of some of the largest mass shootings in history used handguns

However, an AR-15 was used to take the lives of eight people in a recent mass shooting at the Allen Premium Outlets in Texas on May 6. It has also been used in at least 12 other mass shootings since 2006.

As NPR reported, when assault weapons were banned from 1994 to 2004, mass shootings decreased by 37% compared to the decade before. In the decade after the ban expired, mass shootings increased by a shocking 183%. 

An article by Everytown for Gun Safety estimated that if the federal ban on assault rifles were still in effect, there would be 70% fewer mass shooting deaths.

According to USA Today, “President Joe Biden urged Congress to pass gun control legislation,” including an assault weapons ban, immediately. However, most congressional Republicans are said to be reluctant to pass stronger gun control laws, and have “pinned the issue on mental health instead.”

To protect ourselves we can attend safety training to learn necessary steps to take in defense against active shooters. Proper knowledge of what to do first will help us cooperate with each other when a shooting happens. 

No one knows when and where shootings will happen, thus we should know how to act when it comes.

The next training will be held on June 8 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. online via Zoom by the Foothill-De Anza Community College District Police Department. Those who cannot attend are able to view the Training and Professional Development page which provides descriptions about the training and safety video.

Let’s be prepared together.