I was raised not to judge people based on politics, because people can believe whatever they want to. We're lucky enough to live in a country where you have all sorts of freedoms and rights, and your ability to express them is unique. You can protest, you can speak out, you can even burn an American flag and it's protected by your First Amendment rights. So, I don't speak out much on political issues and mainly keep to myself on them (plus, the number one way to lose friends is to talk about politics repeatedly).
That being said, I'm about to get political regarding gun violence. Consider this your warning.
I was born into a time of a mass shooting, which is when four or more people are killed in the same area during a single incident, hysteria. Two months before I was born, there was Columbine. I was 3 during the Washington DC sniper shootings, 8 during Virginia Tech, 10 during Fort Hood, and had just turned 13 during the Dark Knight open fire in Colorado. I was in 8th grade, cutting paper snowflakes in Algebra class when my principal came over the PA system, asking for a moment of silence and prayers. Someone had just opened fire on students at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. That's the first one I really vividly remember.
You would think that things would change after hearing someone took the lives of innocent children. That someone would speak up, that some statute or law would be passed. Sure, background checks became stricter, but the casualties continued. I remember San Bernardino. I remember Orlando. I remember Las Vegas (I had been at Mandalay Bay watching Michael Jackson: One just two months before). I remember Sutherlands Springs.
As I'm sure you've heard of by now, on Valentine's Day, Nikolas Cruz entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and opened fire, killing seventeen and wounding twelve others, three of them critically. I found out because my CNN notification went off in the corner of my computer while I was eating some soup at my desk, writing a paper. Knowing Parkland was near Fort Lauderdale, I texted one of my friends from Miami to ask if she knew where this place was. She had friends of friends there. My sister later texted in the family group chat, saying it was her friend's school. My friend's brother knew one of the victims. As big as this world is, it seems so small in times like these.
Today's February 15th. Day 46/365.5 of 2018. There have already been 29 mass shootings this year. In 2017, there were 346 of them. Stoneman Douglas is the 18th mass school shooting in 2018 alone. Every day, about 96 people are killed with guns. Ninety-six. Seven children and teens are killed a day from gun violence, on average. We hold 42% of the world's civilian owned guns, and America’s gun homicide rate is more than 25 times the average of other high-income countries. 167 of the weapons used in these more recent mass shootings were legally obtained and the owners passed their background checks. This includes Stephen Paddock, the Las Vegas shooter.
Here's the thing: everybody seems to talk about making America safer, but nobody seems to know how. In President Trump's speech after Parkland, he mentions making schools safer, but says nothing on gun control. Contrary to this, Florida governor Rick Scott immediately mentions that nobody who is mentally ill should have access to a gun. Even former President Barack Obama called out gun control in his own condolences tweet. By policy, obviously Democrats are bigger advocates for gun control than Republicans are, but there have been times in the past where Republican presidents have made motions to become stricter on the issue. President Bush, for example, wanted to raise the age of owning handguns from 18 to 21 during his term. President Reagan, one of the most right-wing Republicans we've ever had, was the president that issued "The Brady Bill", mandating federal background checks on firearm purchasers in the United States, and imposed a five-day waiting period on them. It was later signed into law by Clinton.
And something else that continues to baffle me is the fact that we are quick to use the excuse of mental illness:
Had this shooting been an act committed by a black male or another minority, that man would've been considered a thug. He would've been targeted racially. Had it been a Muslim man, someone would have absolutely said it was an act of terrorism. We cannot continue to put this emphasis on mental illness, especially using such a broad term. Depression is mental illness, anxiety is mental illness, even addiction is mental illness. Not all white shootings are directly correlated to these problems. Even if you say "mental illness is the issue", shouldn't you then start putting funding into better institutions so people can improve their mental health conditions?
The solution, in my eyes, is that we should work towards fixing our Second Amendment. Keep in mind, this amendment was ratified in 1791. The "common gun" was a musket, which is shot three bullets/minute at a maximum range of 50 meters. Nikolas Cruz's used an AR-15, the same gun used at Sandy Hook, in Vegas, and many other mass shootings, which fires at a range of 3,251 feet per second. It also can shoot 30 bullets without needing to be reloaded.
It's impossible to say that we should end the Second Amendment completely, as guns are used for hunting and other things we need to survive. But, we've amended or reversed amendments before (The 18th Amendment was prohibition of alcohol and the 21st Amendment said 'bad idea' and switched it back), and we can do it again.
Bottom line is the power is in the people. This needs to end, the hate needs to stop, and we need to move onward and upward. Nobody should have to lose another child, husband, wife, sister, or brother as a result of mass shootings again.