There should not a be template for tragedy.
Again, we’re shedding tears, sending prayers, and arguing over something that should not
be happening. When you read about the shooting in Parkland, you already know what’s going to be said. You already know because this has already happened: Vegas, D.C., Harris County, Charleston, Orlando, Sandy Hook. We see this copy-and-paste response. And these are only a fraction of the mass shootings which are a fraction of all gun violence each year.
Again, it’s easy for the nation to feel hopeless. Again, it’s easy for adults to read news of a shooting and process the tragedy in rapid fashion. Again, it’s easy to accept mass shootings as part of American life.
That’s why it’s up to us to say never again. It’s up to each and every young person in America to turn that pain into action, into change, into hope.
How many times are we going to look at a mass shooting in the U.S. and call it "evil" without passing laws fighting the evil? How many times are we going to have to read "the deadliest shooting in modern history"? How many times are we going to have to accept a new peak in tragedy?
This is not normal.
We have the same goal: we all want mass shootings to end. I'm sure we've all read and listened to a lot in the last month. We’ve all read these metaphors and statistics demonstrating one point over another, all with different people to blame and different solutions to consider. So if you are looking to make a change, please know that you’ll hear these phrases:
1. “It’s kids, today.”
As if teens are eager to violence or glorify it. But adults have been saying, “It’s kids, today” for decades, even since today’s adults were kids. What proven statistic between youth culture and gun violence is there? And does this take into account the vast movements of teens protesting gun violence throughout America? What’s the majority and minority? Furthermore, a teen was not the culprit behind Las Vegas; a teen was not responsible for Orlando or Harris County. This phrase ignores not only the subject of mass shootings, but the constant problem that exists within all of them.
2. “It’s a mental health issue.”
And it’s true. It’s possible to support both mental health services AND stricter gun control laws. Just because you hear someone advocate for one does not mean they're rejecting the other. This is not an either-or situation. It's nuanced and frustrating and will not be solved by a hashtag, meme, or slogan.
But we must also understand that Congress, the people in charge of passing laws supporting mental health services and gun control, have ignored mental health. They've done worse than ignore it. The Trump Administration's 2019 budget proposal cut programs for mental health services. In February last year, President Trump signed a measure into law passed by Congress that would allow gun sales to people with mental illness.
These are facts. So despite what the President or any Republican congressman SAYS about supporting mental health services, the President supported a budget cutting mental health services, and Congress passed a law that made guns more accessible to people with mental illness.
3. “Let’s arm teachers.”
But the majority of citizens and educators do not want guns in a student’s classroom, or anywhere near their schools. “How to Handle a Firearm” should not be part of a school teacher’s job description. This sentiment distracts from the greater picture of how to reduce gun violence not only in schools, but other public areas.
4. “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”
This common phrase is a misinterpretation of the whole intention of saving lives. No one is arguing that people kill people. But how do we prevent a murderer from doing the maximum amount of damage? Certain firearms are unquestionably more harmful than others.
5. “It’s our constitutional right to bear arms.”
With restrictions. Do you see anyone driving a tank around town? The Second Amendment was written 200 years ago with different firearms in mind. The government is not trying to make a sweeping law to take away all firearms. The majority believes there should be a change—if not to the firearms available, then at the very least, to those who can access them. A NY Times poll showed that more than 80% of Americans wants to ban sales to people on the terror watchlist, people with mental illness, stalkers, and violent criminals, and more than 80% approves of universal background checks. These are things we can agree on that have not been passed by Congress yet.
6. “Gun laws won’t stop anything. Criminals will just break them.”
So what’s the point of having any law if someone’s going to break it? What’s the point of having laws against theft, abuse, or murder if people will just break them? Making this argument goes against the whole point of society. We have laws to protect our utter right to life. The majority of these mass murderers purchased their firearms legally. To refuse to accept the possibility that making these firearms less available will decrease the mass murder rate is refusing the possibility of a safe society.
If you are for gun-control reform, you will hear these arguments over and over again—not just from standard citizens, but from Congressmen, from the leaders responsible for enacting change.
So on the 14th, on the 24th, and April 20th, MARCH. Call your representatives. Register and pre-register to vote. Show your unity in numbers. Make our state leaders realize how strong and powerful today’s youth is. Make them realize that you if are not already a registered voter, that you will be soon, and that your vote matters. This is now our issue. It’s our issue because our Congress refuses to address it, because they send copy-and-paste prayers when what we need is action.
Never again should our Congress be passive in the face of American mass shootings. And if certain members are, never again should we accept these members as rightful leaders. Refuse to accept mass shootings as a normality in everyday American life. Refuse violence. Refuse cynicism.
Image credit: AP