America, It's Time To Drop Your Abusive Relationship With Gun Violence

America, It's Time To Drop Your Abusive Relationship With Gun Violence

When will you realize it's not beneficial for you?
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This month, between mass shootings at schools and police officers not being convicted for killing innocent civilians, gun control has been a topic of conversation for almost everybody. For those familiar with guns, we know the power of these tools and the destruction they can bring. Whether you've fired one or just saw one on television, you know that these tools can cause serious damage to not only one person, but their family and friends for years to come. As a minority who has grown up between urban and rural areas his whole life, I'm no stranger to the .45 pistol or hunting rifle. I've held both, and feared both, because at the end of the day I know what they can do and how they can drastically change your life forever.

When I was 8-years-old, I lost my cousin to gun violence.

This started my journey into learning what guns can do to human beings and how they can affect us. Thanks to my family, I learned how to control the weapons and was taught to only use them in dire situations. Still, to this day I hold the fear of what they can possibly do to us.

When I was twenty, I lost my childhood friend to gun violence.

When you lose someone to a gun, it creates a fear and anger that is often difficult to contain. You wonder what provoked the cowardly act of taking another man's life with a firearm, and how it could've been prevented. The same way I felt when I was eight is the same way I feel today as I am now twenty. I do not like guns. I do not believe we have any valid reason to use them as civilians. I do not believe any person should be able to purchase an automatic high-caliber rifle.

Guns in urban areas seem to carry a much different weight than guns in rural areas. I find that people more so in rural areas are burying animals once a gun is shot, but I am burying a loved one in an urban area once a gun is shot. To those who own guns in areas that are not like my own, I can understand how owning a gun may seem essential to your life, but think about what's happening to those in other areas of the United States. Gun violence and control has been a subject that urban communities have fought to get a hold over for decades. As they may not get as much publicity as a protest in the public eye now, best believe people in areas like New York City, Chicago, California and New Jersey, have been fighting for the government to place stricter control on gun laws for longer than a lot of people can actually remember.

In order to understand guns, we must first understand the second amendment. This amendment held dear by many Americans (seemingly more than the lives of their own children) allows individuals to own firearms as they please. I ask you now, to understand when it was written, and understand how it was written. The first ten amendments, also known as the Bill of Rights, were accepted by the states in the year of 1789. At the time, America was fresh out of a revolution and needed a way to ensure that its citizens would not be under siege by those under British rule. The second amendment states, "A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

A well-regulated militia, everyone. A militia is defined as "a military force that is raised from the civil population to supplement a regular army in an emergency." Individuals can create a militia, but individuals themselves are not militias. The state of emergency the United States is currently under is that of gun violence.

Over the years, America has fallen in love with these firearms for the fear of losing control or dominance over our own property and those around us. If you're allowed to take someone else's life, no matter their size or strength compared to yours, I understand that you may feel a power unmatched by any. But it's that selfish thinking, accompanied by the lack of control, and in my opinion, concern from the U.S. government, that has placed us in the position that we are in today.

Guns kill people.

Nikolas Cruz did not stab and injure 17 kids; he shot and murdered 17 kids.

My cousin and friend were not killed by knives, or by the physical hands of another; they were killed by guns.

Once you understand what guns can do to an individual, physically and psychologically, you begin to understand what the problem really is with these tools. We are not a generation of killers nor do we need to be a generation of those who fear being killed.

I should not have to watch the emergency exit in class because I fear anyone can unload a rifle magazine within seconds. No one should. My cousin should not be dead, my friend should not be dead, all the people killed wrongfully by police should not be dead, and every kid that has fallen victim to the bullet during a school shooting, should not be dead.

To those who feel the same way I do, I love you, I am here for you, and I thank you.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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An Open Letter to the Person Who Still Uses the "R Word"

Your negative associations are slowly poisoning the true meaning of an incredibly beautiful, exclusive word.
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What do you mean you didn't “mean it like that?" You said it.

People don't say things just for the hell of it. It has one definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as, "To be less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one's age."

So, when you were “retarded drunk" this past weekend, as you claim, were you diagnosed with a physical or mental disability?

When you called your friend “retarded," did you realize that you were actually falsely labeling them as handicapped?

Don't correct yourself with words like “stupid," “dumb," or “ignorant." when I call you out. Sharpen your vocabulary a little more and broaden your horizons, because I promise you that if people with disabilities could banish that word forever, they would.

Especially when people associate it with drunks, bad decisions, idiotic statements, their enemies and other meaningless issues. Oh trust me, they are way more than that.

I'm not quite sure if you have had your eyes opened as to what a disabled person is capable of, but let me go ahead and lay it out there for you. My best friend has Down Syndrome, and when I tell people that their initial reaction is, “Oh that is so nice of you! You are so selfless to hang out with her."

Well, thanks for the compliment, but she is a person. A living, breathing, normal girl who has feelings, friends, thousands of abilities, knowledge, and compassion out the wazoo.

She listens better than anyone I know, she gets more excited to see me than anyone I know, and she works harder at her hobbies, school, work, and sports than anyone I know. She attends a private school, is a member of the swim team, has won multiple events in the Special Olympics, is in the school choir, and could quite possibly be the most popular girl at her school!

So yes, I would love to take your compliment, but please realize that most people who are labeled as “disabled" are actually more “able" than normal people. I hang out with her because she is one of the people who has so effortlessly taught me simplicity, gratitude, strength, faith, passion, love, genuine happiness and so much more.

Speaking for the people who cannot defend themselves: choose a new word.

The trend has gone out of style, just like smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt. It is poisonous, it is ignorant, and it is low class.

As I explained above, most people with disabilities are actually more capable than a normal human because of their advantageous ways of making peoples' days and unknowingly changing lives. Hang out with a handicapped person, even if it is just for a day. I can one hundred percent guarantee you will bite your tongue next time you go to use the term out of context.

Hopefully you at least think of my friend, who in my book is a hero, a champion and an overcomer. Don't use the “R Word". You are way too good for that. Stand up and correct someone today.

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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Dear America, We Can Step Forward As A Country If We Stop Believing That Only One Belief Is Valid

It's time to promote unity and emphasize our commonalities because only through unity can we step forward as a country.

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Dear America,

2018 was a year of political strife and conflict. The left and the right fought constantly. Republicans and Democrats blamed each other for the tiniest mistakes, and there were only a small number of successful bipartisan deals. Politicians and citizens alike seemed more concerned with sticking to party platforms, even ones they truly didn't believe in, rather than compromising with the other side to improve our society.Yet all this name-calling and hatred — what does it do in the end? What does it accomplish?

We've only seen an increased polarization of American politics and an expanded hostility towards "the other side." We don't consider the well-being of each and every person in America and the bettering of our society, or the building of a stronger world for our children and grandchildren.

We spend so much time insulting each other's political beliefs that we forget probably the most important fact that links us all together: We are all human. We all share the same basic needs, the same struggles, the same moments of happiness and sadness.

And yet we are willing to put our similarities aside and only focus on our differences. We are willing to thrust ourselves into the deep anger and loathing that comes in attacking those different from us. We are willing to parry insults behind the safety of a phone screen and forget all about what makes us alike. And we are willing to gloss over the fact that we have more similarities than differences.

SEE ALSO: Dear Trump, Thanks For Transforming Me Into A Responsible, Educated Citizen

Yes, political beliefs make a person. Political beliefs define the values, ideas and thoughts of a person. But sometimes, we have to reach over those beliefs, as hard as that may be, and focus on the bigger picture at hand. What will insulting someone because of those beliefs do? It definitely won't change their views or make them see things from your point of view.

It's sad and frustrating that this endless fighting doesn't even occur between two countries or two governments or two nation-states. Instead, we see arguments and strife between two family members, two neighbors or even two strangers, all living in the same community and under the same government, all sharing more similarities than differences.

We need to stop focusing so much on singular ideas. We need to stop believing in the close-minded idea that only one thought is the best thought. And instead of wasting energy trying to change other's opinions, we need to use that energy and time to promote unity and emphasize our commonalities.

These past few years have truly divided America. Let's make 2019 a year of unity, because only through unity can we step forward as a country.

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