On October 1 Stephen Paddock killed at least 59 people and injured hundreds of others. The horrific and disturbing nature of the violence sparked a bipartisan outpour of thoughts and prayers for the victims, and shock that yet another mass shooting had occurred. On television, commentators decried an epidemic of mental illness as if fixing a broken mental health system in America would solve an epidemic of bullets. But, most importantly, nobody did anything besides talk and post on Facebook.
This reaction is inherently problematic. Posting on Facebook does nothing. Saying “I’m horrified/scared/shocked/hope it won’t happen again” does nothing. Everyone feels that way. Prayers and thoughts for the victims and their families don’t matter, or at least they fail to solve anything. Blaming the mental state of the shooter does nothing. Fundamentally, it’s just too late for anyone to do something about horrors that happened in the past, even if that past was two hours ago. Fundamentally, slacktivism does nothing besides make the “activist” feel good about their good deed of taking a few minutes out of their day.
Instead, let’s focus on prevention of more mass shootings. Let’s go further and prevent the mass gun violence that happens in America every day, to hundreds of people in the forms of homicide, intimate partner violence, accidental gun deaths, and suicide. It isn’t very hard, but it certainly will take more action than simply posting on Facebook.
The very power of being a citizen of the United States comes from the right to vote. Use it. Vote for politicians whose beliefs you agree with on this issue. Voting takes half an hour per year, on the first Tuesday of November. This year it’s November 7, so mark your calendars. Vote every year, even when there is not a Presidential election. Don’t think of municipal or state elections as “just local.” The policies of cities and states can be different from the federal government, and elections are often decided by just a few hundred votes.
On that note, tell your representatives how you feel. Call your governor, senator, congressperson and any other elected official who will be voting on a policy that you care about. If you don’t have the time to call, write a letter, email or even a text. Today, there are many services such as Resistbot and FaxZero that will send faxes from smartphones. Use them. Copy and paste the Facebook post you’ve already written and send it. Let them know about the outrage of their constituents. Contact them every time something you care about comes up.
Today, it’s more important than ever to stay informed about the issues. Don’t block out news that is unpleasant, but make sure all of it is true. Make sure to get news from good sources with a history of accurate, non-partisan reporting. Fox News and MSNBC are commentary on the news, not the news. The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and Politico are all excellent examples. Be a conscious consumer and remember to question the motivations of the source and check if the information is factually accurate. This matters for news like a mass shooting, just as it does for other issues.
But, being a well-informed and active voter and citizen is not enough. Volunteer for or give money to campaigns rallying against gun violence. Go to rallies and events for causes you support. Make yourself visible and use your right to First Amendment Rights to Free Speech and Freedom of Assembly to control the tyranny of the Second Amendment. Demand reasonable, small actions like waiting periods, universal background checks, and basic safety requirements on guns. Make your anger visible.
Finally, encourage others to do the same. Change doesn’t happen without broad, unified support. Remember—mass shootings should not be a partisan issue, or a time for hoping that this incident will be the last. It won’t be the last until the horror and terror of this experience inspires millions of Americans to stand up against gun violence and demand change.