The following was originally published on literallydarling.com and can be found here.
“Oh wow, another shooting?” my best friend exclaims as she walks into my room and sees the live news coverage from California blasting from my TV Wednesday evening. Sadly, her exclamation is the exact same one way too many Americans had as well. Following the shooting in San Bernardino, I had been reading every shred of information I could get my hands on. It made me sick, made me cry. I hadn’t had such a strong, visceral reaction to violence since Sandy Hook in 2012, when I was paralyzed by my own abhorrence towards mindless killing. And yet, here we are, again. A nation currently best personified by having more shootings this year than days.
I was raised in a conservative, Christian home. I will always be grateful for the way I was raised, because leaving that comfortable home and coming to a liberal university allowed me to see both ends of the spectrum. And still, today, I get a front-row seat to America’s hot-button issues, from both my family and my classmates. So, when I was once again confronted with the media blasts against guns and our nation’s inability to effectively stop the violence surrounding them, I decided to take advantage of the polar opposite views I’m privileged to witness. So I reached out to my family.
My mother’s thoughts on the subject were interesting, and I completely, 100% agree with her, surprisingly. “The right to bear arms is fundamental to American Liberty, but as John Adams said, ‘Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.’ There is no question that America can no longer be considered a moral or religious nation—those days are long gone. So, some basic things in the Constitution may need to be modified to protect our largely immoral population from themselves,” she told me. Resisting my urge to shout “YAAAAS girl,” at her was hard, because she makes perfect sense.
Recently, President Obama made a crucial point. “Right now, people on the no-fly list can walk into a store and buy a gun,” Obama said.“That is insane.” And it is. It’s also insane that one of the most Republican-minded people I know is of the opinion that stricter gun laws should be implemented, and yet, there is still such a debate around them.
Let’s take a look at Scotland. In 1996 Scotland experienced an earth-shattering shooting where 16 innocent children were killed, an eerie resemblance to our own shooting in Connecticut. However, while America stood still, allowing nothing to change, Scotland took action. The next year a law was put into place which made illegal the private ownership of guns. Now, realistically, a law this strict would never fly in the United States. But they did something. The Scottish people were so outraged at this tragedy, they made something happen. What does that say about us, that something so horrific happened to children, and we did nothing? Immediately following the terrorist attacks in Paris, Americans rushed to conclusions about Syrian Refugees, and campaigns to ban them from our nation, with state governors taking a stand to “protect” their homes. Yet, after the slaughter of our own innocent young ones, we banned nothing.
To clarify, America was ready ban an entire group of people, but the possibility of placing restrictions on purchasing automatic weapons is out of the question. “Law abiding citizens have a right to protect themselves and their families from armed criminals, who will acquire weapons illegally anyway,” my sister, who is even more Conservative than my mother, said. Well, yes. But why not crack down on those illegal weapons sales? And like many who committed mass murders this year, the shooters in San Bernardino bought their weapons legally. Not all killers are so easy to spot.
My own personal political views are a bit scattered, but coming to terms with tightening gun laws was sort of an awakening for me. Ever since that horribly cold day in December two years ago, when America learned of the slaughter of its own children, a seed was planted in me. A seed of disgust, of a lack of understanding at how this happened. A seed planted deep within my heart that has now officially grown into a tree of solidarity with my fellow Americans—a tree that stands for justice and action.
Because, to me, that is precisely what tightening gun laws would do: provide a sense of doing something about the loss of too many lives. I know it won’t completely solve the problem, I’m well aware that there will always be people who want to kill and who will find a way to do so. But is that what we want to go down in history for? For taking that victim-blaming, “boys-will-be-boys,” “bad people will be bad people,” dialogue as armor against the ricocheting bullets screaming for someone to take responsibility? No. America needs to try. At the very least, I want the history books to tell of a time when we fought for innocent lives, when we took action, when we weren’t just nodding our heads in despair, preparing ourselves for another tragedy to feel sad about.
Grief echoes. It exists infinitely, rippling across your life for years. Sometimes it comes in spurts, in moments of having to clench all your muscles together to make the pain stop. Other times its constant, a wave that descends on you in a seemingly endless hurricane of hurt. My muscles still clench, voice still shakes, eyes still water when I think about the death of my dad 8 years ago. It never goes away. Losing someone never stops. And for the more than 150,000 Americans who were killed between 2001 and 2013 because of someone else’s gun, the grief their families will endure will never really stop. “Some kind of safeguards must be enacted,” my mom told me. Something must be done. We can no longer afford to simply just be bystanders.