Not just thoughts and prayers, action is needed to address America’s gun epidemic

Victims are tired of thoughts and prayers; they want action.

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Not just thoughts and prayers, action is needed to address America’s gun epidemic

Students register to vote during the nationwide walkout.

Students register to vote during the nationwide walkout.

Em Paquette

Students register to vote during the nationwide walkout.

Em Paquette

Em Paquette

Students register to vote during the nationwide walkout.

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33 in Virginia Tech, 50 in Orlando, 59 in Las Vegas.

Innocent civilians have undeservingly died due to series of mass shooting in the United States. America is fighting a war no other developed country is fighting today. Year after year, fatalities surge to set records for the deadliest shooting. According to the Washington Post, since 1966, 1,077 people were killed in mass shootings including 162 children and teenagers. Sadly, frequent headlines and death tolls have made many of us emotionally immune to these tragedies; we’ve begun to normalize violence and unwarranted deaths. Fewer individuals are shocked because the shootings have become a recurring phenomenon; fewer individuals are demanding change because we began owning the problem rather than resisting it.

On February 14, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, another 17 innocent lives were lost. Public servants showed a prototypical response. They offered their thoughts and prayers – nothing else, just thoughts and prayers. Victims of this horrible shooting are seeking comfort and the public is sending condolences through social media and fundraisers. But most of all, they are seeking a true action. Abbie Youkilis, aunt of one the victims Jaime Guttenberg, called on politicians to act: My family does not want your hopes and prayers. We want your action.” After Sandy Hook, after Pulse nightclub, and after Las Vegas, politicians have repeatedly dodged gun reform faulting the timing of politics at times of mass shooting. It was no different this time. Speaker Ryan told reporters at the Capitol, “This is one of those moments where we just need to step back and count our blessings. We need to think less about taking sides and fighting each other politically, and just pulling together.”

It’s an undeniable fact that gun violence is a grievous problem in the United States. According to CNN, the US makes up less than 5% of the world population, but holds 31% of global mass shooters; additionally, gun homicide rates are 25.3 times higher than in other high-income countries. Historically, guns have symbolized the most fundamental American values from independence to liberty.

Today, however, guns have found a different purpose. Instead of being a tool for protection, guns have become a weapon for murder and crime. The enhancement of military weapons and deadly wars have not only put more militant guns in civilian hands but also encouraged guns as means of hostile actions towards others. Gun violence has plagued many communities and families of loss and grief. To solve a problem, you have to recognize the problem. There should be no denial of this issue and the desperate need for reform should be acknowledged.

Students, parents, and the Parkland community have been articulate and vocal on this issue. They’ve gathered with previous mass shooting victims and support organizations to start a movement for change. The attention was targeted towards the politicians. Students have urged their constituents not only to take initiative but also to speak directly to students. The urgent demonstrations and aggressive speeches by the victims have been effective in starting a political conversation; Senator Rubio (R-FL) and Senator Nelson (D-FL) joined the Parkland community to address their concerns at the CNN Town Hall.

The urgent demonstrations and aggressive speeches by the victims have been effective in starting a political conversation”

— Alex Kang

In recent years, politicians have been very responsive to violence, with the wrong solutions. Politicians have rallied to ban Muslims. Senator Cruz (R – TX) proposed policing Muslim neighborhoods and the White House signed an executive order demanding a travel ban from Muslim-majority countries. Islamic principles were blamed for violence. Politicians have rallied to limit immigration due to their crime against the citizens.

According to ADL, White Supremacists were directly responsible for 18 out of 34 U.S. extremist-related events in 2017, while Islamic extremists were only responsible for 9. And yet, Politicians attacked the Muslim community. According to CATO, illegal immigrants are 44 percent less likely and legal immigrants are 69 percent less likely to be incarcerated than the natives. And still, politicians have tackled violence by minority groups but has been conservative in addressing shootings by criminals like Nikolas Cruz. Politicians have been aggressive towards diverse motivation behind the violence like radical Islamic views but have been reluctant to address how the violence is carried out – with guns. There are reasons behind this. Politicians fear losing the electoral base that supports gun culture. But mostly, they fear losing funds from the National Rifle Association.

According to BBC, the NRA spends $3 million on gun policies and has a gigantic budget of $250 million on outside activities which allows them to oversee many politicians with their financial power. The organization lobbies for political candidates to ease gun control in Congress; Florida Senator Marco Rubio received $3 million in campaign donations according to the Los Angeles Times – sixth biggest beneficiary in Congress. The NRA’s influence on Rubio’s articulate through his soundbites. In October 2017, after the Orlando shooting, he commented gun control “wouldn’t have prevented attack.” On the Senate floor after Florida shooting, he said “You read in the newspaper that they used a certain kind of gun and therefore let’s make it harder to get those kinds of guns. I don’t have some sort of de facto religious objection to that or some ideological commitment to that, per se.” At times where victims seek explanation and action, Rubio diverged attention away from guns. It’s simply uncomfortable for NRA-beneficiary politicians to discuss this subject because if they advocate gun control, their largest donor will fund their opponents. Therefore, politicians naturally keep choosing money over people. They blame it on mental illness, but ignore the real weapon that kills people: guns.

Victims are tired of thoughts and prayers. America still suffers from the echoes of gunshots. The future generation is incapable of imagining America without gun violence. Gun reform is long overdue. Too many of America’s educators and children have unjustly died. But if this last shooting motivates politicians to make change, it will at least give 33 deaths in Virginia Tech, 50 deaths in Orlando, 59 deaths in Las Vegas, 17 deaths in Florida, and hundreds of more deaths a meaning. Streets of America should be a place where people lead innovation; it shouldn’t be a place of danger. Schools should be a place where we invest in our future; it shouldn’t be a place where we gamble our future generation to the odds of a mass shooting.

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