To those who have lost a loved one due to a mass shooting, we are sorry that we failed you and your family.
This past Wednesday, when I got into the elevator of my building there were two teenage boys inside. One who had heart shaped balloons and the other holding a box of donuts. It was Valentine’s Day and I was reminded of how big Valentine’s was when I was their age. It really mattered if you’re crush did something special for you and people used to go all out. On the train, I saw another teenage boy with a bouquet. It was beautiful to see these young men doing something for the people that they cared for. By Wednesday evening, we learned that 17 people lost their lives at the hands of a teenager. Some of them children who had barely lived. Some of them faculty, just going to work trying to make a difference. As the nation processes the aftermath of yet another mass shooting, I have to wonder when we will start to take action instead of just saying words.
I was 10, the first time I remember hearing news of a mass shooting: Columbine. The Columbine school shooting took 13 lives (15 including both of the perpetrators). This was almost 20 years ago. Since then there have been countless mass shootings: Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Newtown Connecticut where 20 first graders lost their lives, the shooting in Las Vegas, two church shootings, and countless others. All of these people have died for no reason. Their families have had to bury their loved ones. Investigations happen. We discuss mental health, gun reform, who’s to blame, but have yet to enact real change. I was a child when Columbine happened: I’ll turn 30 next year. An entire generation has grown up, but there has been no reform of any kind. This was the 30th mass shooting this year. It’s the second week of February. America makes up 5% of the world population but holds 31% of global mass shooters. That’s almost half. Gun homicide rates are 25.2 times higher in the US than in other developed nations. America, we have to address the fact that we have a serious problem. While protecting our 2nd amendment right to bear arms, we are leaving our citizens in harm’s way. I fully support the right to bear arms, but we have to make it harder to buy guns. It’s harder to get a driver’s license than it is to get a gun. We understand that driving a car is a big responsibility but so is owning a weapon. I don’t think this is what the founding fathers meant when they created the 2nd amendment.
In the aftermath of this latest shooting, President Donald Trump tweeted that Americans need to report individuals who are mentally disturbed. Almost exactly one year ago, President Trump signed a bill that revoked gun checks for people with mental illnesses. So even if we did report someone, it wouldn’t affect whether or not they were able to buy a gun. Yes, we need to talk about mental health, but we also need to talk about gun reform. This shooter obtained his weapon legally even though he was kicked out of school for behavioral problems, and was known to have mental health issues. Our lawmakers are scared to address the real issue here which is gun reform. This young man should have never been able to get a gun given his history.
I do agree that as a nation we need to do better when it comes to addressing mental health. We need to remove the stigma of being mentally ill and the stigma of seeking help. We are failing our children and more importantly our boys and men. There is something wrong when almost all of the mass shootings that happen are perpetrated by men. We are teaching our young men to be violent and not giving them the proper tools to handle emotional distress. We need to teach our young men that being vulnerable is not a sign of weakness. Asking for help does not make you weak it makes you strong. Violence is not the way that we address our problems.
Until we begin the process of creating gun reform in this country, we can stop offering prayers and condolences. God is tired of hearing our prayers for a problem that we can fix. And I’m tired of lawmakers who aren’t being held accountable for their actions. If we are failing our children, then our government is failing us. Our representatives are failing us. If other countries can create real gun reform, then so can we. I do not want my children to grow up in a world where this is commonplace. This should have ended with my generation. Our children are beginning to hold us accountable and they should. Columbine was a wake-up call. Newtown was a wake-up call. Parkland was a wake-up call. How many more must die before we say enough is enough?