We are only 48 days into 2018 and the tragedy that has befallen Parkland, Florida is not the first of its kind this year.
Most of us on this campus feel sad about this — even depressed, but it hasn’t sent our lives spiraling into the dark abyss that many families are finding themselves in just since December. We are sad about it for a few days, but then we move on. After all, we can’t dwell on sadness forever.
However, it seems to me that in this country we don’t really — I mean really — care about an issue unless it rocks our immediate world. I’d like to think that we are less selfish than that, but these are the facts. We feel sad for those affected, but not sad enough to even pick up the phone, call our local Congressperson or Senator, and demand that they stop standing idly by.
I’m someone who has grown up in central Pennsylvania, in an area where hunting is popular and in a house that has guns in the safe downstairs. I understand the need and the right of people to own weapons. But, when I look at this epidemic of killings that is plaguing our country, I can’t help but compare it to other countries. I can’t help but think about the one uncommon denominator here.
The United States, Mexico and Guatemala are the only nations in the world with a “constitutional” right to bear arms. Though the United States doesn’t have the highest number of deaths due to gun violence out of all countries, when we compare America to other nations with a similar socioeconomic status, or other countries that are “well-off,” the United States lands at the top of the pack in gun violence… by a long shot.
America has six times the amount of “homicides by firearm” as Canada, and 16 times more than Germany, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
When we compare the rates of gun deaths in less affluent areas, like the Middle East, America still ranks number two, second only to Iraq; more gun deaths than Syria, more than Iran, according to a study done by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
And it’s not just that Americans own guns, it’s that we seem to own a lot of them. The UNODC also says that the United States accounts for 4.4 percent of the world’s population, but owns 42 percent of the world’s firearms.
If I know one thing about this debate, it’s that statistics don’t seem to sway many people and their opinions, but there they are — for the record.
After looking at these, I understand why a store owner in London once told me that his city perceives America as a war zone. To quote Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, whose video of his appeal to lawmakers has been making the rounds on social media, this perception by other countries, and this reality for America, “[is] not a coincidence, [it’s] not because of bad luck, but [is] a consequence of our inaction.”
We all have a stake in this.
Many of us will one day have kids that we will send to school. We all have parents who once sent us off to school every morning too, but was the scenario of a shooter bursting into a school and picking off lives one after the other the first thing on their mind when they watched us skip onto the school bus? Probably not, but it has to be now.
You can say, “well if only Congress would do something,” but this is a democracy and a representative one at that. After all, we are the ones being represented, so it’s time we do more than just shake our heads in disbelief. The days of turning on the TV, seeing another tragedy because of one person with a gun in hand, seeing the faces of those left without a loved one sitting around their breakfast table the next morning, and the pictures of those kids, teenagers and adults whose lives were cut short, those days are over. Something must be done.
Maybe it means taking a second look at the original meaning of this sacred document called the Constitution. What did the founding fathers intend for the Second Amendment? If they were alive today, what would they say about our current interpretation of it?
I’m not saying outlawing guns is the answer. There’s a slim chance that would even work when we live in a country where violence is so normalized. But what I do know is that sitting around, waiting for the next tragedy to show up on our “Breaking News” notifications, and watching Congress twiddle their thumbs on gun policy is most definitely not any kind of a solution — no matter what angle you’re looking at it from.
I know that emotions run high on both sides of this debate, but aren’t we all supposedly working towards the same goal — a safer nation? We have to work harder at getting there together, or we’ll never get there at all.
I don’t see this as a partisan issue, I see it as a human issue. But if it sounds like I’m playing a “liberal snowflake” card, then deal me in, I guess — because seeing the fragile value of human life will always rank higher for me than the need to cling to policies that fulfill some unchecked entitlement to my own “liberties.”