It feels like every few weeks or every few months, we are hearing about another mass shooting. Another day of tragedy in America. More lives lost through senseless and avoidable violence. The tragedy in Orlando needs to be the last tragedy. Those 49 innocent souls need to be the last ones taken in such a senseless manor.
I live in Connecticut, and Sandy Hook hit me like a ton of bricks. I still remember the moment I heard about it. That day was a Friday and I had been in school just like any other day. Normally, I would turn on CNN when I got home just to check on the world outside of my bubble. I didn’t that day. It wasn’t until about five o’clock that evening when I was in the car on my way to spend the night at my friend’s house that I heard about the event on the radio. I had never thought that anything like that could happen so close to home.
Sandy Hook sparked a conversation, not only here in the nutmeg state, but nationally. In school, the conversation was about "what if it happened here." Until it happened in Connecticut, that didn’t seem likely. In the months that followed, everyone was on edge, which ultimately brought about sweeping changes. Schools suddenly had locked doors, and security cameras. It also changed the way we view guns, and in April 2013, CT legislators passed some of the most restrictive gun regulations in the country.
But why did it take tragedy to pass legislation designed to prevent tragedy? It was all a little too reactive. And other states, haven’t quite yet gotten the clue. We need to be proactive. The truth is: some day, tragedy will strike close to home. Your home. Someday, you could know someone who is a victim of gun violence. One day, it will hit you and your world will turn upside down.
Many gun advocates will claim that it’s not the weapon because guns are an inanimate object that can’t fire without someone there to pull the trigger. It’s not the guns killing people, it’s people killing people. Access to guns ultimately allows people to complete these atrocities. In states where gun laws are more lax, the rate of gun-related violence is higher. Countries that impose strict gun regulations also see fewer gun-related incidents.
Guns not only make it easier for those to commit mass tragedies, but also make it easier to commit suicide. Of those killed by guns each year, far more are suicides rather than murders. Those who attempt suicide are often in the heat of the moment and access to firearms increases the risk for completed suicide. The secret about those who are suicidal is that they don’t really want to die, they just want the pain to end. Access makes it easier. Access to guns allows for people to do things in the heat of the moment. While mass shootings are a bit different from suicides and are often planned, they are no different when it comes to access. Both suicidal and homicidal people have the same access to guns.
On June 15, Democratic senator Chis Murphy (from CT) held a 15-hour filibuster on the Senate floor and enlisted the help of other democrats to bring attention to gun control. This filibuster was to bring attention to gun violence and demand that Senate Republicans vote on gun restrictions. This filibuster grabbed the attention of the media, and brought even more attention to the issue while also grabbing the attention of Republican senators. During the filibuster, 48 Americans were shot in 38 different gun-related incidents and twelve died. Guns did that.
In an ideal America, guns would be banned outright. The logical first step would be restrictions and the ultimate banning of automatic and semi-automatic firearms. Access to weapons increases the likelihood of mass shootings and the only way to prevent these types of tragedies is to limit access to such deadly weapons. Semi- and fully-automatic weapons make it so much easier to kill because that is what they are designed to do. It’s not a perfect solution and won’t end the shootings, but it will save lives.
Ultimately, we have to ask ourselves if we love these weapons more than we love each other. And I am proposing a step in a safer direction, but it is not a solution. It needs to be a step, not the end of the journey. We need to step up and make a change because people matter and no one deserves to be shot just for living their life.