Yes, it is a gun problem

Your guns are not worth more than our lives.


photo courtesy of Nick Youngson under the Creative Commons license.

by Faith Andrews-O'Neal, Writer

Valentine’s Day is a holiday meant for love. For me, it’s listening to my meticulously curated “Mushy Feelings” Spotify playlist, going to dance class until late at night, then working on homework. For others, it’s a romantic night with their significant other. For the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, there was no date night. For some, there was no night at all. There was a shooting, one that killed 17 people. 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz took an Uber ride to his former high school, walked in armed with an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle and took the lives of innocents human beings.

Before Stoneman Douglas, there was Sandy Hooks Elementary School, in which 20 children between the ages of six and seven were murdered, along with the teachers who risked their lives to save the children.

Both of these shootings occurred with legally obtained semi-automatic weapons, which no civilian should have any access to. Before Sandy Hooks, there were countless others. Well, not countless. In the past 1,870 days, there have been 1,624 mass shootings. To be clear, that’s slightly over five years. The murdering of children, mothers, loved ones, humans, has been condoned by our government for too long. I stand with the students from Parkland, Florida in saying Never Again.

To be clear, let me state that I truly believe that mental health plays a large role in the actions of perpetrators of mass shootings. However, I do not believe that demanding we reform gun control negates that issue. The two must go hand in hand. I am no expert in the fields of weaponry or mental illness. I am a person who would like to attend school without fear of being killed by a gunman whose access to a weapon is that granted by our government. This seems like a simple, reasonable request. However, as Congress voted down gun control laws while being watched by students whose friends were murdered days ago, it is one that seems disregarded by the lawmakers around me.

As a student, I am scared. As an activist, I am determined. As an American citizen who desperately wants to have faith in our legal system, I am discouraged. As a person who understands basic math, I am confused by the lack of response in comparison to other countries. We are less than five percent of the population, yet own 35-50 percent of all firearms. I would like America to come first in women in legislature (in which we ranked 104th last year). Instead, we are number one in global mass shooters.

As I was researching, I noticed a pattern. Countries such as Canada or Japan experienced a horrific mass shooting, committed with a semi-automatic weapon, that killed many people. Instead of diverging from the issue and guilt-tripping their citizens for politicizing the situation, the government upended their gun laws, created mass reform and tried their hardest to prevent another mass shooting from occurring. Now, Japan has an average of zero shootings per 100,000 people, compared to the US at 3.54. This may not seem like a lot, but considering America houses almost 324 million people currently, that number is shocking. These statistics were easily found through reputable news sources and were enough to further convince me that America needs a serious gun law reform. Why can’t our lawmakers come to that same consensus? Could the money and the votes gained from gun-toting NRA members truly be worth more than the lives of children? If we have to ask these questions, does that not let the American people know that this is the time for a change?

We, as a people, can no longer wait for Congress to make the right decisions. It is not the time to stand idly by and wait for progress. It is time to call a congressman, hold discussions and let it be known that we want immediate, mass structural change.