As a leading Western nation, the United States should set an example for other countries aspiring to implement capitalism, freedom and democracy. Recently, we must appear as though the nation’s fallen astray, plagued by internal political divisiveness and conflict coupled with eruptions of politically-motivated and senseless acts of violence and hostility, and that appearance isn’t far from the truth. The situation risks undermining the fabric of our society and blurs our supposed role as a beacon of hope for the free world. 

Just over a year ago — since the last deadliest mass shooting in 2007  America was stunned when a shoorter slayed 49 innocent people of the LGBTQ+ community at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. The attack inflicted tragedy on not only the LGBTQ+ community but also on the lives of family, friends, and millions of others affected by the killings.

This Monday, another act of mass murder surpassed the Orlando killings, officially marking 2017 as the year of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. With 58+ citizens confirmed dead and 515+ hospitalized, we all wish the Las Vegas attack could be the last and final straw before we rid our society of all this violence.

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Yet America responded to this week’s attack by diverging into political rhetoric — Democrats calling for immediate gun control legislation, Republicans in disagreement, and the public prematurely attributing political, social or racial motivations to the killer. The morning of the Las Vegas shooting, hostility arose across social media, especially as fake news and hoaxes circulated the internet, claiming the suspect to be alt-left, anti-Trump and other radical assertions. A more important fact for discussion is that gun homicide rates in the U.S. notoriously rank above those of most developed countries, exposing the toxic moral issues infecting our society.

Furthermore, in 2017 the number of riots rooted in hatred and violence reached astonishing heights. The recent riot in Charlottesville — which called for a state of emergency — was a clash between white supremacists and counter–demonstrators, leading to a 2nd degree murder when a car ploughed through the crowd of anti-racist protestors.

Blatant acts of domestic terrorism inflicted on innocent people exercising their rights to free speech only leads to further the political divide in our country and threatens the safety of Americans. It is fair to say that the visible animosity among Americans and the barbaric behavior of a few degrade international respect for our country and our global image. Perhaps more troubling is that it weakens our ability to serve as a beacon of hope for the free world.

But how can we make progress, implement change and move forward as a country when everything seems to be dividing us, instead of unifying us?

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Political viewpoints will inevitably vary in a nation founded on the principles of capitalism, freedom and democracy. Parties must find common ground to improve the well-being of all Americans, principally by ensuring domestic security and a safe environment, to live and enjoy the benefits of living in a free society without fear of violence, and without regard to one’s race, religion, political beliefs or other lifestyle preferences.

In response to the episodic string of tragic events such as mass shootings, and massive expressions of bigotry, etc., we must bond together and focus on immediate recovery and action. The buffering, the stalling and the refusal to accept the faults in our system are hindering social and political progression. Changes must be made straightaway. State legislation must be enacted, and that includes the strict regulations of guns, and particularly guns of the type that enable mass murder and terrorism.

Ayaka Thorson ([email protected]) is a freshman who is currently undecided.