This week’s mass shooting that killed five and injured eight at a downtown bank happened less than three miles from my apartment. Even as a born-and-raised Kentuckian and gun owner for more than ten years, this mass shooting has hit (literally) close to home, and I know that I’m essentially a sitting duck until new common sense gun laws are on the books.
As I was sitting down to Easter dinner with my girlfriend’s family on Sunday, I asked her brother-in-law if he was going to Thunder Over Louisville.
“Probably not,” he told me. “There’s no way to secure that many people.”
The increased frequency of mass shootings in America today is unmistakable.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been more mass shootings than days so far in 2023, with nearly 150 as of this writing. Kentucky is one of the most gun-friendly states in the U.S. In the commonwealth, we can openly carry without a permit or a background check. We also don’t require a mandatory waiting period before purchasing a weapon. I bought my first gun here at a gun show when I was 24 years old. The process took less than 15 minutes.
I shot my first gun in my teens while at a friend’s house (with a responsible adult present) in Flemingsburg. Guns are a core part of rural culture, and people like my friend and his father looked forward to deer season, when one of them would tag a buck and eat off of it throughout the winter. The kinds of regulations I’m talking about wouldn’t change their lives in the slightest.
All most of us want are common sense measures like universal background checks, mandatory waiting periods, a ban on assault weapons and red flag laws. A 2022 study found that 78% of gun owners support banning firearms for those convicted of domestic violence. And even 71% of survey respondents who identified as Republican supported universal background checks for concealed carry permits.
There is bipartisan support for gun reform, just not the political will. This is largely due to the overwhelming influence of the National Rifle Association (NRA), which spends large sums to influence gun policy. It’s worth noting that only 6% to 7% of gun owners actually belong to the NRA, and the organization only has a 43% favorable rating among Americans nationwide. While they flex a lot of muscle in statehouses, lawmakers shouldn’t act under the assumption that the NRA is as fearsome as they seem.
Every mass shooting serves as a stark reminder of the blood sacrifice the NRA’s pet politicians and pundits expect us to make in order to preserve the idea of unfettered access to deadly weapons. This is not hyperbole: Roughly a week after the deadly mass shooting in Nashville, Tennessee that killed three young children and three adults, conservative commentator Charlie Kirk suggested at a pro-gun event that random casualties of mass shootings are an appropriate price to pay.
People like Kirk don’t speak for people like me and the millions of other responsible gun owners who just want our lawmakers to take meaningful action on gun reform. We know gun reform won’t eliminate mass shootings, but they will at least make them less frequent. We owe it to ourselves and our children to try.
Carl Gibson is a Kentucky native and proud graduate of Morehead State University. His work has appeared in CNN, The Guardian, The Washington Post, Barron’s, Business Insider, and NPR, among other publications.