My heart goes out to the families that are mourning and have been mourning their lost ones through gun violence.
On May 24, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos entered an elementary school, built a barricade in a fourth-grade classroom, and killed 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas.
Who were you as a fourth-grader? What were your dreams? Maybe you didn't even have any — you're not supposed to, because you are a fourth-grader. Fourth graders should think about hiding the snot from their nose, not stopping blood from running down their arms. Fourth graders should think about their new crush, how to tie their shoes, or what they're eating for lunch. Fourth graders should think about running free and wild in the summer — not locked in a room, huddled, scared, and confused.
The grandmother of Amerie Jo Garza, one of the children shot by the gunman, noted how her granddaughter "was sitting right next to her best friend. Her best friend was covered in her blood."
One of the most horrific parts of that day was that it was meant to be a day of celebration. Garza, as well as many of her classmates, had just received a certificate for making the honor roll. Thinking about the joy she felt earlier that day followed by the fear hours later, I am left speechless.
Everyday activities in America are no longer normal and safe. Just over a week ago, on May 16, 18-year-old Payton S. Gendron killed ten Black people with a semi-automatic weapon in a grocery store in Buffalo, New York.
On May 18, 68-year-old David Chou killed and injured Taiwanese children with two 9-millimeter handguns as they were worshiping in their congregation in Laguna Woods, California. He killed one individual and wounded five.
One cannot observe these instances without thinking that the American government has failed its citizens. Safety is a fundamental need that the government ought to provide its citizens, yet the American government has failed to do so repeatedly. It is time to enact stricter gun regulation to protect the American people.
How Much is a Life Worth?
On May 25, Texas Governor Greg Abbott and the state's chief police officers held a conference in Uvalde. Six mass shootings in Texas have occurred since Abbott became governor seven and a half years ago. Each time, Abbott has offered thoughts and prayers, but he has simultaneously minimized the problem. Highlighting gun violence rates elsewhere, Abbott commented that "[he] hate[s] to say this, but there are more people shot every weekend in Chicago than there are in schools in Texas."
Often, conservatives highlight other sources of gun violence, such as the high murder rates or suicide rates by handguns. In other words, they change the subject and fail to answer the question at hand. The complexities of gun violence rates due to murders and suicide have their unique features and components. Unique components require different solutions.
Yes, mass shootings constitute a small portion of gun violence in America. According to the Pew Research Center, suicide rates accounted for 54% of gun deaths, murder accounted for 43% of gun deaths, and the category "other" accounted for 3% of gun deaths in 2020. While 3% is smaller than 54% and 43%, we must remember that this small percentage still accounts for thousands of lives lost.
According to the conservative argument which highlights the low percentage of gun violence attributed to mass shootings, mass shootings do not warrant government action because they do not kill enough people. However, two lives are not more valuable than one. A life is a life. Death does not only affect the individual lost. It can traumatize families and friends. Mothers no longer get to kiss their children goodbye for school. Teenagers no longer get to laugh with their parents. So ask yourself again: how much is a life worth to you?
Following Australia and Canada's Gun Regulation
Conservatives often shape the conversation around mass shootings as a mental health issue rather than a gun issue. While mental health is a common factor among shooters, we still have to acknowledge the significant role the lack of gun laws and regulations play. There is an adage that states that "hurt people, hurt people." Yet hurt people with guns don't just kill individuals; they destroy the families left behind and inspire the next generation of mass shooters.
In 2021, 36% of Americans, 33% of Australians, and 33% of Canadians reported having mental health issues. Despite having similar high mental health rates, Australians and Canadians have significantly fewer mass shootings. This is due to the strict gun regulations that Australia and Canada have enacted following mass shootings in the past. Australia's 1996 gun regulation resulted in an accelerated decline in firearm deaths, especially suicides, and an astounding number of zero fatal mass shooting for 10 years. Following a 1989 mass shooting, Canada acted swiftly to pass gun legislation, requiring thorough background checks and revoking guns from those suffering from mental health. Other countries such as Britain, New Zealand, and Norway have also tightened their gun regulation which has resulted in fewer mass shootings and gun-related deaths in general.
It's time for America to follow its Western counterparts who are making grounds in gun regulation and maintaining the safety of their citizens.
America Has Banned AR-15s Before. Let's Bring It Back
While mass shootings often have varying motives and locations, one common denominator distinguishes American shooters: the infamous AR-15. Since 2012, 11 mass shooters have used an AR-15. The shooters in Uvalde, Buffalo, Boulder, Orlando, Parkland, Las Vegas, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Waffle House, San Bernardino, Midland/Odessa, Poway Synagogue, Sutherland Springs, and The Tree of Life Synagogue all used an AR-15.
In 1994, Congress passed a ban on assault weapons, one being the AR-15 which lasted until it expired in 2004. Following the ban, the number of mass shootings decreased. According to a 2020 publication within Criminology and Public Policy, states that enact stricter gun legislation and ban assault weapons often see diminishes in mass shootings. Speaking on the death of 19 children in Uvalde, Texas, President Biden highlighted how mass shootings nearly tripled following the end of the assault weapons ban. Americans should not have access to weapons used in military combat. With results showing the benefits of the AR-15 ban, it's time to bring it back.
In 1994, Republican Senators such as Richard Lugar of Indiana and John Danforth of Missouri showed immense courage and integrity by voting for gun violence reform against party norms. These senators were moved by the recent rise of mass shootings and felt called to action. In 1994, congress and the White House came together for change. We can do it again - we have to. To our current senators, what if it were your children, your mother or father - who was left gasping for air? What would you do then when it was too late?
Following the shooting in Uvalde, New York governor Kathy Hochul proposed banning AR-15s for those under 21. However, while the shooter at Uvalde was 18 years old, his young age does not reflect the majority of shooters. According to the Rockefeller Institute of Government, the average age of mass shooters was 33.2 years old as of 2020. Enacting an age limit of 21 will not be effective in reducing mass shootings. It's time to ban AR-15s entirely and unapologetically.
As of now, a large portion of Americans agree that there should be stricter gun regulation. According to a 2021 Pew Research Center Survey, 87% of Americans support preventing those suffering from mental illnesses from purchasing guns, 81% of Americans support background checks, and 63% support banning assault-style weapons. There is broad support among the American people to have stricter gun regulation, yet gun lobbying and organizations such as the NRA are obstructing change. The NRA currently funds 49 out of the 50 sitting Republican senators ranging from 8,000 dollars for Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) to 7 million dollars for Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC). It’s time for these congressmen and congresswomen to stop speaking with their wallets. While the amount of money the NRA has can seem daunting, mobilization of the people can and will inevitably bring about change. It’s time for America to work harder than gun lobbyists to support gun regulation through marching, lobbying, and contacting local officials. The NRA is powerful, but not unstoppable.
The movement to end gun violence is lacking in continuity of resources and momentum. If we are going to stop the NRA, which spent 250 million dollars alone in 2020 for gun advocacy, it will take all of us - not just your friend or your legislature, it’s going to take you. We must not let the bystander effect come into play. If your skill is writing, you can work our legislative advocacy and write to your local representative. If your skill is artwork, you can create posters for rallies or start your own social media campaign. If you have the resources, donate to organizations fighting to end gun violence or organizations supporting victims of gun violence.
The decentralization towards gun violence should not be normalized. The grief of the family members should not be normalized. Mass shootings should not be normalized. It's one thing to call those mass shooters monsters for ruthless killing individuals, but it takes another to watch and do nothing.
Ways To Get Involved
On June 11th, March For Our Lives will march again in solidarity with those lost to gun violence in Washington DC. Please go if you are able. It's time to make some noise. To demand action from legislators, text MARCH to 954-954.
Join a PA Vigil and Call to Action on May 31st. The Vigil will take place on the steps of the Delaware County Courthouse at 201 W. Front St. in Media, PA.
Call your local and state officials and demand legislation on gun control. Find Your Representative HERE.
There are many more ways for individuals to get involved whether big or small.
Make all checks payable to "Robb School Memorial Fund."
Mail checks to 200 E. Nopal St., Uvalde, Texas, 78801
Or to donate through Zelle, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Donate to The Uvalde Victims GoFundMe Page
Donate to The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
Donate to The Sandy Hook Promise
Donate to States United to Prevent Gun Violence
EMILIA ONUONGA is a College senior studying philosophy, politics, and economics from Middletown, Delaware. Her email address is email@example.com.