Gun control is arguably one of the most divisive topics in our country. For too often and too long we have used that as an excuse to ignore it, but it is far past time for us to do the opposite.
I have often talked about placing ourselves in other people’s shoes – but this time around, I want to begin by using my own life as an example.
As someone who is soon graduating high school, I have spent the last four years in hallways and classrooms and each of those years I waited for the moment that I would get shot.
It got to the point where I was unable to focus. I would sit at my desk and stare at the open classroom door, just listening. Any loud noise, any slammed door, any book dropped would make me jump out of my seat. I would create detailed emergency plans for what I would do in each room I walked into. I would sit at home and watch countless first-aid videos. I would hide in the bathroom during school assemblies. I would take the long way to class, racing through parking lots to make it to my seat on time and avoid the crowded areas, praying I’d make it inside — even though it was in those classrooms where I felt the most unsafe. It was there I felt terrified.
Now, I just feel grateful; I never did hear a shot ring out. I never lost anyone I loved, and I am still alive. Three things that, to me, once felt impossible. I didn’t see a school shooting as a far out idea; it felt close and it felt inevitable. How could it not? The people in my life swore to me that we were safe — but I was certain I knew differently. Certain that everyone felt that way before it happened to them.
The truth is I was profoundly lucky, not safe, and that same luck was not extended to the people in Parkland, in Las Vegas, in the Pulse nightclub, and so many more. I am writing this for them, just as much as I am writing this to show you that people are scared and that we will not be safe until things change. Until we can say that American children learn multiplication before they learn what to do during a lockdown. Unfortunately, we cannot rely on the majority of politicians to get us there.
During the 2016 election, 232 out of 435 House representatives received campaign donations from “gun rights” groups such as the NRA, as documented by a POLITICO study. Luckily, such things are public record. I am not sure how to make it clearer that you cannot entrust those 232 representatives, not including the many senators, to tell you the truth, let alone to do what is in the best interest of your children. They are not going to fight for you. Their debt is not to the American people, but to the groups that provide them with millions to get elected in the first place.
But that is still not the biggest part of this fight. This biggest part is that we are among the countries who lead the world in gun violence deaths, and yet we have the weakest gun laws of any developed nation. That is unacceptable.
Frankly, I think that the proposed reforms such as universal background checks and a ban on high-capacity magazines and semi-automatic assault weapons are a definitive step in the right direction, but not enough.
We must also destroy the idea that gun control is somehow equivalent to the government coming into your home and taking away your gun, for those things are not comparable, and are a direct result of misinformation. The Gun Violence Prevention and Community Safety Act of 2020 that was introduced to the House last January, and now sits in committee, is evidence of such. This bill aims to establish license requirements, inform law enforcement agencies of background check denials, create a process for extreme risk protection, raises the minimum age from 18 to 21, and promotes research, to name a few — none of which remove approved guns from qualified owners. While this bill has not passed, this is a clear example of what Congressional action on this issue can look like.
When you say you are against gun control, you are not saying you are pro-Second Amendment — for that is not the opposite of gun control. When you say you are against gun control, you are instead saying that nothing needs to change despite the fact that 612 mass shootings occurred in 2020, as shown by the Gun Violence Archive. That nothing needs to change even though 43,491 people died the same year from gun violence in the United States. That nothing needs to change even though 1,069 of those people were teenagers, and 298 were children under the age of 11.
I don’t expect, or want,to change your mind in an instant, and I understand that those who say they do not want gun reform do not want people to get hurt. They just want to know they can protect themselves, and I understand that. But, no one is advocating to take that right away from you. I want people to be able to protect themselves, too — I just also want people to be safe. I want children to be safe in school, and I want families to be safe at the movie theater, and I want anyone who practices a religion to feel safe in church.
Safety should be non-negotiable in this country, and I know that by passing reform laws we will not completely rid ourselves of gun violence, or of the people capable of pulling the trigger. But, we deserve to know that our government is fighting to protect us, not themselves, in the ways that they can. It is my greatest hope that one day we will be able to look our children in the eyes and say that this is a truth they can count on. As Florence Yared, a Parkland survivor, said, “We cannot protect our guns before we protect our children.”
We hold everyone we have lost in our hearts by fighting to make sure that is a reality, and by ensuring not one more American family has to feel their loved one’s grief.
Daisy Devine is a senior at the Enumclaw High School.