Preventing gun violence is not a partisan issue. Allowing the slaughter of our children is not up for debate. Our lack of unity in the wake of recent events is unfathomable. We need legitimate cross-party dialogue now. I can't stop asking myself...WHERE IS IT?
The other night, as I began writing a letter to Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson, I have never been so unsure of where to begin. I am rarely one to be at a loss for words, but currently, I, along with countless other Americans, feel utterly silenced in the face of recent events. I acknowledge that many people are firm proponents of the second amendment, which I understand and respect. However, there is a major flaw in how this amendment is being interpreted. The amendment states the right to keep "a well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state." I, personally, neglect to understand how anything regarding our current gun laws constitute "well regulated." The laws enumerated by the Gun Control Act of 1968 are vague, and therefore, contain easy loopholes. The NICS (current system in use), or the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, is only able to check criminal records, and fails to take any mental health records into account. Additionally, these checks are not by any means thorough. As long as a denial does not ensue within three days of the background check's request, the individual may purchase a firearm, although the check may have not fully completed.
I understand the desire to uphold one's constitutional rights, and I understand why this amendment was initially created: to grant civilians the ability to bear arms in the case they longer receive adequate protection from their government. Created in 1787, ratified in 1788, with the Bill of Rights added in 1791, our constitution is nowhere near up to date with modern society. Our Founding Fathers are well-known for warning us about the threat of the cursed two-party system (go figure), but they also warned us about interpretations of the constitution. Despite their insistence on abiding by the constitution as our most sacred and important text, they acknowledged their inevitable inability to entirely foresee our country's future. James Wilson, one of our Founding Fathers, said, "The first and governing maxim in the interpretation of a statute is to discover the meaning of those who made it." When the second amendment was created, I am almost positive the right to bear arms was not given to the American people to allow the gruesome and inhumane bloodshed of our young and innocent. And even less, I don't think our Founding Fathers believed that the majority of civilians would be fit to own a gun, hence the use of the term "well regulated." We are meant to view these laws, that were written in a completely different era, with a critical and discerning eye. It is not a conflict of ideals to support both the basic principles of 2A and to support more responsible gun ownership in our country. Based on Wilson's sentiments, we need to adjust and reestablish the meaning of the constitution based on the original intent of the law, which, in this case, was to ensure public security and safety. It's a shame that our second amendment is being interpreted in such a way that it allows for its antithesis.
I understand that gun control would not alleviate the ever-present black market for gun sales, and that criminal and mentally ill people would still find a way to obtain their guns illegally. The thought of a world where law-abiding civilians have no access to guns, and consequently, anyone else does, is a horrifying thought. On the opposite end of the spectrum, however, there are tremendous flaws in our current manner of evaluating prospective gun owners on their pasts. The system has proven time and time again to be fallacious, as the majority of guns used in mass shootings have been purchased legally. Ideally, with common sense gun reform, trained, law-abiding citizens would not have to worry about having their guns taken from them. The government cannot control what is done in the secrecy of the black market, but they can control the easy accessibility of guns to the common, unfit person. Making guns harder to obtain for an unfit person makes it harder for an unfit person to get their hands on a gun. Cause and effect. Period. This won't prevent all dangerous people from getting a gun, of course, but it is merely factual that it would prevent shootings from occurring at the magnificent frequency we are experiencing today. Cause and effect. Civilians have access to military-style and military-grade, automatic and semi-automatic weapons, created for the battlefield, with the sole purpose of mass destruction and massacre. We watch as these weapons become nothing short of an ill-regulated commodity. I am hardly advocating for anything major. I am not advocating for everyone to be stripped of their guns; I am simply advocating for basic reform.
It is beyond upsetting to see that both sides of the political totem pole can acknowledge that gun violence is a dire issue necessary for repair, yet we are going nowhere fast in regards to initiating sensible, cross-partisan dialogue. Alyssa Alhadeff, a 14-year-old in my camp community, was murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, as her friends were forced to watch her take her last breaths, as her life was ruthlessly and senselessly stolen from her. 17. This happened 17 other times that day. 17 more families, countless more friends and communities affected. Countless more lives who are forever scarred, witnessing and confronting atrocities they can never vacate from their minds. I wish this weren't a multifaceted issue. We all wish it had one quick fix. Why are we the only first-world country where this occurs regularly? Mental illness runs rampant in our country, yes, but the same can be said for the majority of developed European countries experiencing a substantially smaller number of mass shootings. Additionally, what qualifies and does not qualify as mental illness is ill-defined, creating terribly vague and poorly enforced and outlined parameters. Moreover, many are saying we should arm teachers, faculty, etc... in areas that would currently be considered "gun-free zones." My school hardly has the budget for a sufficient amount of paper, let alone the financial capabilities to effectively train and arm our staff. The idea is consistently flawed. How do we know that we are to trust the civilians that we are arming? How do we properly train the average person to distinguish a crisis situation from a non-crisis situation, and to act accordingly? How do we ensure that these guns, hypothetically existing in the same building as potentially dangerous students, would not get into the wrong hands? This is not a practical task.
I feel lost. I am writing this, admittedly, as an angry 17 year old student with no concrete answers, and merely suggestions. I struggle addressing a problem I cannot confidently answer with a list of sure-fire solutions. It was too late to start debating solutions when 13 children and teachers were killed at Columbine High School in 1999, and its far too late now. I felt compelled to write this to show my confused, impassioned, and indignant immediate and genuine response to the recent tragedy that's shrouded our country in a dark cloud. Here's what I do know: My sense of utter helplessness and not knowing how to act, become involved, and effectively participate in my democracy is an American failure of epic proportions. I know I am not only speaking for myself, but for others like me, and especially victims who have been silenced in years past, when I say I want a response. I want an actual conversation that's fueled by facts and logic and not exorbitant donations from the NRA. It seems like our efforts are futile. Its an abominable cycle of death, grief, frustration, and inaction. And that is the issue. We can't let it die down this time. Not again. I'm tired of seeing my news-feed crowded with the tortured screams of innocent children, the dismal cries of those in mourning, and desperate pleas for a change that isn't taking place.
I'm tired of stagnating. We're done turning a blind eye.