The Future of Gun Violence
Issue   |   Tue, 02/27/2018 - 18:57

On Valentine’s Day, a day that should be filled with love, 17 beautiful children and staff members lost their lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, my home state. When the news notification popped up on my screen, a sense of dread washed over me. To me, Florida is a place of happiness, laughter and sunshine. It’s a place to go and enjoy life. It is not a place where people should be collectively heartbroken on Valentine’s Day.

Every time a school shooting happens, we tell ourselves that it will be the last time. When will this country finally learn that nothing will change until we take action? When will our politicians open their eyes and find solutions to this problem? When will enough be enough?

President Trump’s response to the shooting focused on mental health issues rather than confronting the problem head on. In today’s political climate, it is difficult for Republicans to seriously suggest tightening gun control laws, especially when they have received millions of dollars in funding from the National Rifle Association (NRA), like Trump has. Now Trump is tweeting statements like, “So many signs that the Florida shooter was disturbed.” Trump is the one who actually repealed Obama-era regulations that aimed to prevent people with mental health issues from purchasing guns, and now he is claiming that mental health is the root of the problem. Instead of blaming mental health problems, let’s look at the legislation in Florida. Why is it that you have to be 21 years old to buy a handgun from a licensed dealer, but you only have to be 18 to buy a semiautomatic rifle? Why can you legally buy an AR-15 before you can legally buy a beer? Why do some private sellers not require a thorough background check?

The FBI had received a tip about the shooter’s suspicious and potentially violent behavior, including his interest attacking the school, but never completed a proper investigation. The FBI’s inaction shows the United States’ apathy towards gun violence. As a country, we have embraced guns as a part of our culture. Nearly half of the civilian guns worldwide are owned by Americans. Our constitution protects our right to own guns, and this is an important freedom, but we must not forget how dangerous guns can be in the wrong hands. Gun threats need to be taken seriously by both civilians and our government, and we must act to instate tougher restrictions. We must enforce a mandatory background check. We must ban bump stocks. We must raise the minimum age required to purchase an AR-15 and other similar weapons.

The students from Stoneman Douglas High School are taking action. They are speaking out and standing up against our country’s apathy towards gun violence. The students travelled to Tallahassee, Florida’s capital, and met with about 70 elected officials, urging these politicians to take action before the legislative session ends in about two weeks. One day, our generation will become members of Congress, but I hope it won’t take that long for these students’ ideas to be heard and realized.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio claims that imposing harsher restrictions on guns will not prevent people who want guns from purchasing them. These people, he claims, will find other ways to get their hands on guns. By this logic, there is no point in having any laws at all. While people may break laws, it is still important for us to have laws so that we can regulate and punish actions as much as possible. To his credit, Senator Rubio did recently come out in support of raising the age to buy rifles, reconsidering the legal size of gun magazines and implementing a new gun violence restraining order system. These are certainly steps in the right direction, but more significant progress still needs to be made.

One morning when I was a senior in high school, my school went on lockdown. I realized it wasn’t a drill when we had to turn off all the lights and hide in the corners of the room for an hour. No one had any idea what was going on, but we were instructed not to speak or move. It was not until later that day that we found out there was an active shooter situation nearby, and authorities had thought the man might be coming near the school. While I wasn’t in any immediate danger, I caught a glimpse of what it’s like to feel unsafe in your own school. No child should ever have to experience that. We must change our ways before more innocent lives are lost as a result of our inaction.