A church in Charleston. A nightclub in Orlando. A concert venue in Las Vegas. These locations may seem disparate but are united by one disturbing commonality. As three sites of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history, we have reached the point in which no place is free from gun violence, including our schools.
A mass shooter claimed the precious lives of 14 students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL on Feb. 14, 2018. The Parkland shooting is now the eighteenth school shooting of this year and the fifth most fatal shooting ever in the country. Still, the worst is yet to come if elected officials fail to enact gun control reform.
The damage left by bullets is irreversible. Members of Congress quickly extended their condolences, but their words are empty if they do not commit to changing policy. With a Republican majority in both the House and Senate and the GOP’s financial dependence on the National Rifle Association (NRA), human lives fall subject to party politics. How many more children will be stripped of the opportunity to become the nation’s future at the hands of partisanship?
The Gun Violence Archive has already recorded 2,828 deaths and 4,824 injuries attributable to guns in 2018 alone. These shootings took place in every state — once again illustrating that the possibility of anyone opening fire anywhere at anytime can no longer be considered far-fetched. It is this sense of normalcy, the narrative repeated by the Parkland shooter’s swift semiautomatic rifle purchase, that terrifies me most. These victims could just as easily be you, me or a loved one.
The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are dedicated to making a difference, taking their #NeverAgain message to rallies, a CNN-hosted town hall, and the Florida Statehouse. Their national school walkout on March 14 garnered the support of thousands of students, solidifying the effectiveness of an empowered youth. The March 24th March For Our Lives again encourages other students to stand in solidarity with those in Parkland and to sustain the gun control conversation. Their unwavering bravery has ignited a movement that refuses to accept the status quo, but the responsibility of ensuring gun policy change should not fall on students. After all, these are the same children who had to witness their friends being killed by a mass shooter.
Our children should not have to beg their own government to protect them from gun violence in their schools.
Gun control is not as hotly contested by the public as you would expect. A 2018 Gallup poll identified that 59 percent of Americans are either somewhat or very dissatisfied with current gun policies. This desire for change remains consistent, since the same poll has shown a dissatisfaction rate of 43 percent or higher every year since 2001. Constituents have asked their representatives to prioritize gun control time and time again to no avail. Regardless of party affiliation, all members of Congress have an obligation to serve the needs of their constituents before those of special interest groups. Likewise, a re-election campaign should never come before the protection of citizen lives.
Progress is often the result of tragedy. We do not choose to fight for some common good until disaster strikes. How many more cautionary tales of gun violence do we need until something is done?
Before anything else, we must guarantee that the fight for increased gun control reform does not fizzle out. Call and email your representatives and senators at least once a week to demonstrate that this debate is far from over.
Find a way to engage with the March For Our Lives on March 24. Though the march itself is located in Washington, D.C., hundreds of sister events have been announced. Philadelphia will be holding its own march that day at 9:30 a.m. on Fifth and Market Streets. If you are unable to attend, write a dedicatory post on social media.
Be educated about gun violence and how to be a true advocate for gun control. Start by attending town halls and forums about this issue. Statewide organizations such as CeaseFirePA need help with community outreach and coalition building.
Those against gun control often employ the “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people” argument. This may be true in theory, but guns certainly make killing easier. I do know one thing: the negligence of our lawmakers kills people, too.