On Valentine’s Day, a notification lit up my phone during my first period chemistry class announcing one of the deadliest school shootings in recent history. I am ashamed that I paid no attention to the news— I turned off my phone and went back to work, because after mass shootings started occurring on almost a monthly basis, I began to tune out the depressing news that follows one.
No one could have foreseen the movement that would follow the tragedy in Parkland, but nobody can deny the importance of combating gun violence in the United States. The FBI defines a mass shooting as a shooting where at least three people were killed. In 2017, there were 11 mass shootings in the U.S., and after each of these senseless tragedies, our leaders did nothing to prevent another massacre from occurring.
After a gunman opened fire on festival-goers in Las Vegas, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds more, we were faced with a question: what are we going to do to prevent another tragedy like this? The answer: we did nothing.
After a gunman shot up a church in Sutherland Springs, killing 26 people, we were faced with the question again, and again, we did nothing.
After a former student of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School ruthlessly executed his former teachers and classmates, we are once again faced with that same question: what are we going to do to prevent gun violence in the United States? The answer cannot be nothing. We must make change. The amount of gun violence in the United States is too dire to be ignored.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said at the Republican National Convention that the vast majority of Americans “do not feel safe.” While I may disagree with Giuliani on almost all of his positions, I think there is truth to this statement. No one should feel safe in a country where there are almost as many guns as people, and all it takes is one gun, the twitch of a finger and the flash of a muzzle for a human life to be brutally cut short.
I accept that people have the right to bear arms— the Supreme Court settled that question years ago— but I believe that this country should value the right to life over the right to bear weapons that take it. I believe we should use the power of our spending to get companies to support common sense reforms instead of organizations like the NRA that seek to prevent them. And I believe that if our leaders will not protect our lives, then we must use the power of the ballot box and replace them with someone who will.
It is time we take action. In 2016, 38,000 people had their lives cut short at the hands of a gun, 11,000 of which were the result of homicide. Gun violence is an epidemic in this country, and just as President Lyndon B. Johnson declared “unconditional war” on the epidemic of poverty in the United States in the 1960’s, we must declare “unconditional war” on the epidemic of gun violence in the United States. Never again should we allow another tragedy like Parkland to occur.
It is time we enact real changes to our laws. It is egregious that in Florida, it was— and in some states, still is— easier for the killer to buy an assault weapon than it is to buy a handgun. It is unacceptable that our leaders are determined to make it easier for people to buy weapons of war. It is shocking that a bill to fix the background check system would face so much opposition in a Congress full of lawmakers who claim to be in favor of protecting human lives. Never again should we protect a system that does not protect us.
It is time we stand up for what we believe, and to do that, we, the people of this great country, must protest. We must take to the street. We must go to the ballot box. We must put an end to this epidemic of violence for the sake of ourselves and all who will come after us. Never again should we wait for someone else to save us. It is time we save our own lives, because right now, it seems that none of our leaders will.