On average, there has been one school shooting every week in the United States for the past five years. This time, the headlines go to Florida, where a gunman killed 17 students.
As a Coloradan, I grew up just a few miles from the site of the first major shooting of this kind, the 1999 Columbine High School Massacre. Fifteen students were killed. I was 2 years old.
Even closer to my house is the Aurora Theatre. There, a gunman killed 12 people. A family friend was in the theater when it happened and survived. For several years, I talked with his mom about how he struggled going out in public before agreeing to receive therapy.
Most recently, I remember going on lockdown during my senior year as we all read the news of an active shooter at nearby Arapahoe High School. A few weeks later, while on winter break, I messaged my classmate to offer her comfort. Her best friend from childhood was in critical condition since the shooting and had just died of her wounds.
There isn’t a classroom or public space I walk into where I don’t find the best exit in case of a shooter. I feel safer traveling most places outside the U.S. than I do in school. Many American’s don’t understand this strange sensitivity: this new reality. But, this is life for us 21stcentury students. Our schools are not safe from terror anymore. As I sit writing this on my college campus in North Carolina, I can only wonder what awful society allows its students to feel more scared of the chance that a gunman enters their classroom than the chance they fail their next exam. Why is America the only nation where these tragedies continually happen?
Background checks, assault-style weapons, and a lack of sales enforcement – besides mental health, these are the main issues we need to focus on.
Over the past 50 years, gun violence in the U.S. has killed more Americans than every war the U.S. has ever fought in. Still, Congress repeatedly fails to pass effective gun-control legislation and the NRA funds candidates who claim that more guns, not less, is the solution. This is not the desire of the American people and this is not the reality of our times.
We must demand new regulations. Sixty-seven percent of gun owners cite protection as the main reason they own a gun, but I can’t remember a single mass shooting or even a petty robbery that was thwarted by someone closeby who held a gun. In fact, a study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that self-defense gun use occurs in less than 1 percent of contact crimes and is not related to a reduced risk of victim injury. Meanwhile, more than 68 percent of Americans support banning assault-style weapons, 71percent support creating a federal data base to track gun sales, and 84 percent support background checks for private sales and gun shows. Even so, not one of these essential gun control measures is a law.
After each tragedy, politicians and citizens mourn, light candles and pray it will be the last. I lost most of my hope when the murder of 6- and 7-year-olds in Newtown, Connecticut, was not enough to persuade politicians to make concrete change.
But this is not a fight we can concede. This is not a set of laws I want my children to grow up under. The next generation should never have to fear that a gunman will enter their classroom and shed blood. This cannot be the future of America.
Your involvement in politics is the only way to convince Congress that if they want to hold their seats, they must let go of their dangerous position on gun control. Call your senator and your House representative. Talk with your friends about why the country which claims to be the best in the world continually allows its citizens to own assault rifles, and why a large percentage of gun sales are completed with inadequate or no background checks.
Don’t just mourn, speak. Don’t just send wishes, send a message. Don’t just read this and go about your day. Gun control in America must change, and it begins with your voice.
Ethan Miller is a junior public policies major at Duke University.