It's Time for Gun Control

It's Time for Gun Control

It has been for a while now.

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From the living room of my Bronx apartment, you can see a school with an American flag flying on its roof. It's a truly majestic sight, this high-flying flag. And it's a tragic sight when it's flying at half-mast, which it is as I write this, and which it was after the last shooting, and the one before that, and so on. This time it's for Thousand Oaks, where 12 men and women, many of them college-aged, were murdered. Last time it was for Pittsburgh, where an anti-semite killed 11 Jewish people at Tree of Life Synagogue.

Who knows what community they'll lower it for next time, or for how many poor, innocent victims. Maybe those victims are churchgoers. Maybe they're college students like myself. Maybe they're schoolchildren. We don't know yet. But I'll know when I get home from class one day and sit down on my couch and look out that window and see that flag flying low again, at which point I'll shake my head and say "how awful". But I'm tired of doing that. I'm sick of looking at that half-mast flag. Lowering the flag to half-mast doesn't bring those people back, and it doesn't do anything for the next victims. We need action.

Let's say we, as a country, introduce a gun control measure that stops just one person from getting gun. It's generally ineffective, but it works once, or maybe a few times. Let's say that one of those few people that are denied a gun was planning on shooting up a Mosque in an act of Islamophobic hatred. Now he can't. Dozens of lives are saved. Is it not worth it? If we can stop even one mass shooting with gun control legislation, would it not be a success?

There's a reason that mass shootings seem to be a uniquely American epidemic. It's because we refuse to take any form of action to stop them. We shake our heads, maybe even shed a tear, and say "wow, how senselessly tragic". And then we move on, until the next one, at which point we'll do it all again. That's the American way. USA, baby.

We need change. We need to prioritize action human lives over the enjoyment of having a weapon with catastrophic capabilities. We need to liberate our government of the dirty, oppressive NRA dollars, and we need to recognize the NRA as complicit in these shootings. We need to find solutions. And to have solutions, we have to have data. But, since 1996 under the Dickey Amendment, the CDC hasn't been allowed to research the causes of gun violence. And although the verbiage was changed this year in order to allow research, the government has not provided any funding, making the reform essentially useless. This has to change.

I'm fed up with looking at that cursed half-mast flag, I'm fed up with the thoughts and prayers, and I'm fed up with hearing heartbroken parents profess their love for their murdered children. It has to stop, now.

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To Kaitlin Bennett, The Girl Who'd Rather Intimidate Than Protect

A few weeks ago, a post on Twitter went viral with a girl posing in front of the Kent State University sign with an AR-10 slung over her should and this letter addresses some of the holes that are in her story.

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Dear Kaitlin Bennett,

When I first saw your graduation pictures, I was floored. There you were, in your white dress, cap in hand, with an AR-10 slung over your shoulder with the Kent State University sign in the background. And coming from a small, rural, mostly conservative town, I knew how many supporters would quickly come to your side and my heart sank.

This world needs a lot of things but the presence of guns on a school campus is not one of them.

I've read news articles and have read through your twitter along with your responses to people who have disagreed with you. And despite your harsh replies and rude comments to those who disagreed with you, you still gained numerous followers.

Despite harassing David Hogg, a high schooler who survived the Douglas High School shooting, people still support you.

I understand that you believe that if students were allowed to be armed, to "protect" themselves, the shooting of May 4th would not have happened. That Kent State would not have lost the lives of four students and that nine other students would not have been injured.

But do you have any idea how many others would have been injured or killed if students had been permitted to carry the same military-style weapons that the National Guard was carrying?

I am a student at Virginia Tech and I wholeheartedly believe in gun control because of what happened to our campus on April 16th in 2007. We lost 32 people that day to an armed student. An armed student who should not have been able to get his hands on such a weapon to be able to kill that many people.

An armed student who should have been given better access to mental health care rather than to military-style weapons.

In your interview on Fox and Friends, you made it clear that you want to carry weapons as a form of intimidation rather than protection. That if you had been carrying when your group was at that rally, your cameraman would not have been assaulted. You know what this is? This is called intimidation which stems from a bullying mentality.

And the United States needs a lot of things but more bullies are not one of them.

You have mocked and bullied David Hogg on social media. You have mocked his physical appearance by calling him "skinny arms". Does that have anything to do with gun control? With owning guns?

No, but it has everything to do with what you stand for which is more bullying and superiority of a machine that can take a human life with just one click.

You said in an interview that since your post, you have received death threats which surprised you since everyone knows that you are armed. This just goes to show that publicly carrying a gun is not a deterrent.

You say you want to openly, and legally, carry weapons so that you can protect yourself. However, your actions speak louder than your words that you preach on social media. You say you want protection yet you always resort back to referring to guns as a form of intimidation.

So, if you are going to use this platform that you have created for yourself, at least get your thoughts together and use it for the good of the people rather than a bully for those who have already fought battles that you could not even imagine fighting.

Cover Image Credit:

https://twitter.com/KaitMarieox/status/1008067413785661440

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The Active Shooter Threat At The University of Michigan May Have Been Unfounded, But The Reality Of The Threat Is NOT

As much as the police and the university want to tell us we're "safe," I don't feel safe, not really.

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This Saturday, March 16th, 2019, there was an active shooter threat here at the University of Michigan. And although the threat has been cleared, and it turned out to be a misunderstanding, it was still a jarring day for many.

This weekend was filled with early St. Patrick's Day parties and get-togethers, a very active campus of vulnerable students. It was a weekend of celebration before we got the announcement of the threat. And while I was not in the center of it, I was still shocked and scared. My day turned from one of average thoughts and actions, into one of worry and fear.

I was in my apartment off-campus that day, hanging out and not thinking about much. I had left my phone in the living room and went into my bedroom for a few minutes when I heard a couple of text notifications. I thought nothing of them. I got another, and still ignored it. Then I got a call, which actually made me get up to check. It was my sister, so of course, I answered.

I was a bit confused as to why she'd call me since we usually just message each other on a group chat, but I answered lightheartedly. She didn't even say "hi," only "where are you?" I was even more confused now and she had to repeat herself. She was only satisfied when I told her I was just at home.

Then she told me the news I'd hoped I'd never hear, "There's a shooter on campus, stay inside and lock your doors."

While the threat and situation have been cleared now, what she told me then was the only truth I knew at that moment. In that moment, and for a while afterward, I thought there was a shooter on my campus, in the very building in which I've taken the majority of my classes during my four years in college. I thought people's lives were at stake and that, even though I wasn't directly there, that my life was at stake too.

I didn't tell her that, and I tried not to let myself think it either. I couldn't process what she had told me, and to be honest, I still can't. As much as the police and the university want to tell us we're "safe," I don't feel safe, not really.

As dark as this may be, there were times when I had been sitting in class and could imagine the ease in which a shooter could come in. I think this has become an underlying nightmare in every student's mind: my school isn't safe.

But, it's not just a fear for students. Just last semester in class, my professor froze at a loud noise out in the hall and even jumped slightly when a student walked in late a minute later. That image almost makes you want to laugh until you realize that her reaction is due to a legitimate threat to our country.

This threat and fear are constant in everyday life now, and it doesn't end in schools.

The amount of violence, most notably gun violence, today surrounds us and has given the nation a uniform of PTSD. It is felt when a professor jumps at an opening door, when you have to suppress road rage in case another driver has a gun, and when the popping of balloons and screaming sets off an active shooter threat.

Yes, this threat turned out to be "unfounded," but the truth is that it could easily have been our reality.

After I hung up with my sister, exchanging purposeful "I love you"s, I checked every news and media outlet I could. What I found was breaking coverage, university community pages coming together, and concurrent emails from the university. Those emails began with, "Active shooter in Mason Hall. Run, hide, fight." And despite the following messages being assurances that there was not an active shooter, I don't think the words "run, hide, fight," will leave my memory anytime soon.

I've felt all of this while off-campus, and I can't imagine what it felt like for those who were in the building, and especially those who were just outside of the building during a vigil for the victims of the New Zealand attack.

While my hands were shaking in my safe and locked apartment, they were running to safety. While I tried to stop myself from thinking about what might be happening in Mason Hall, they were scared for their lives.

In those moments, the threat was real, and that's what matters to everyone affected. And to anyone who refuses to acknowledge that, you're part of the problem. The problem that continuously covers up what could have happened with what "actually" happened.

This campus and this community are so lucky to have each other's' support, and more importantly, our lives. We might not have had an active shooter, but others have. To not recognize the reality of unnecessary deaths, and the real possibility of history repeating itself is purposeful ignorance.

To my fellow Wolverines, I'm glad you are safe and alive. The support you've shown to each other is inspiring and makes me proud of this university.

To those who have known the reality of our threat, I'm so sorry. You are so strong and deserve the utmost respect. There is nothing you could have done to deserve what happened, and my thoughts and prayers are with you.

To those reading this, be mindful of the different ways people process difficult events like these. Do not make light of someone's reactions or experiences. Instead, help make people feel heard, and support healing and community to help combat the hatred that fuels this fear.

Even as I wrote this, my throat choked up and emotions flooded through me. This threat was a surreal moment that highlighted one of my deepest fears. We live in a culture where these threats and the precautions around them are real. Where actions and thoughts are dictated by the threat of unnecessary violence and hatred.

It is nothing new to say that we need to fix this, but we need to come together to do so. There are people in this world who do terrible things and we need to figure out why, so we can help them, so we can stop them.

I hope this threat and scare can be turned into an event of growth and understanding, that will help open up the conversation about the violence in this country, and around the world. We need to spread more universal love and understanding and stop promoting hate. It sounds simple, but it's true. And it will take hard work.

I thank God that this time a university and community was spared, but that doesn't stop the reality of hatred in the world. That will require much more work, determination, and purposeful actions of universal understanding. That requires communication and a deeper look not just into how, but why, these threats remain.

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