Life

Wake up, America

Another day, another dead.

It’s just another day, or so I think as I’m finishing up my breakfast and making my way towards my 10:30 am class. I check my cell phone after class gets out at 12:30 to find that there has yet again been another mass shooting in America. That marks the 355th mass shooting just this year–which makes more mass shootings than calendar days in the year thus far.

I grew up in Denver, Colorado. I was born in 1997, 2 years before the shootings at Columbine High School that left 13 dead and over 20 injured. Of course, I was too little to know what all of that meant. But I was very aware that it had happened. In 2007, my fourth grade year, there was a threat at my school to repeat the acts of Columbine. I went to Belleview Elementary School, which lies on the same campus as Campus Middle School and Cherry Creek High School. I don’t recall if the threat was credible or not, but I remember the fear that has been instilled into me since that day. I moved to Iowa in July, and I remember hearing later in September that there had been some shots fired at Cherry Creek High School.

Going to school in Iowa was different. Mass shootings in Iowa were nearly unheard of. My peers listened eagerly with their eyes bulging out of their heads as I explained some of the events that have gone down in Colorado. Today, however, it isn’t as shocking to my peers to hear about all of the things that have happened near my old home. It didn’t shock them to hear that the Aurora mall where my mom used to work and where we would occasionally shop was shot up in 2005. It didn’t shock them when the Aurora movie theatre that I sometimes used to go to was the place of yet another national tragedy. It didn’t shock them when I told them that a student opened fire at Arapahoe High School, a school barely five blocks from my father’s new house in Centennial, Colorado.

It was December 2012, my sophomore year, that the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut happened that left 20 children and 6 teachers dead sparked heavy debate–was this getting out of control? “FINALLY!” I thought to myself. We started doing lock down drills at school to help prepare if we were ever in this situation. Later on, in the spring of my junior year, there were threats at my school. It was April, and April 20th, 2014 was the 15th anniversary of the Columbine Massacre. I recall scrolling along my Twitter feed, reading all of these tweets from my classmates shrugging this threat off of their shoulders. The anxiety inside of me built up. I couldn’t handle it. For years, I have had this fear that was constantly in the back of my mind–scared to go to school, scared to go to the movies, scared to go to the mall. It angered me to see that people thought that somebody coming to school with a gun was just some huge joke.

The worst part was probably my Spanish class. My Spanish teacher, just as paranoid as I was about these supposed threats, decided to keep her door locked throughout every class period. If a pass runner was to come or somebody were to leave to go to the bathroom, they would have to knock on the door and my teacher would push her curtain to the side and make sure she knew you before she let you in. A lot of kids laughed at her for this, whispering behind her back about how stupid it was and how she didn’t need to worry. This infuriated me–we were coming up on the 15th anniversary of Columbine, which to me felt like would be the perfect time for somebody to copy the events of Columbine at any given school. I recall sitting next to this guy in my class, who I will leave unnamed, who was also one of those who was making remarks about how dumb it was to have the door locked. I asked him if he knew what happened 15 years ago, and while he was aware of the Columbine Massacre, he was unaware that we were approaching the 15th anniversary. He told me the haunting thing which everybody says before and after it happens–“It would never happen here.”

“Don’t you think that’s what they thought that day at Columbine? At Sandy Hook? At the Aurora movie theatre?” I don’t remember what he said back to me; I just remember being annoyed by his ignorance. Mass shootings can happen anywhere. The difference between me and my classmates, though, was the fact that I had grown up in a place where they were happening becoming common. Of course, I wouldn’t wish this upon anybody. I wouldn’t wish for anybody to fear life the way I do sometimes–even if that fear is just on the back burner. But I think that people need to be enlightened about this controversial topic.

You can almost guarantee that pretty much every article you read about any mass shooting will say that it has “sparked the debate of gun control”. The real question is, when are these sparks going to turn into a fire? When are we going to realize that this is actually a huge problem?! ShootingTracker.com has proven to us that in 2013 there have been mass shootings nearly every day. The list for 2015 reaches 355, which is more than calendar days in this year so far (334). This statistic is not okay.

Gun control as arguably one of the most controversial issues of our time. President Obama has expressed his concern for our country, as he is for stricter gun laws. This hot button issue has essentially gone nowhere — those in favor of stricter laws are seeing no differences and those in favor of keeping the laws the way they are claim that their right to bear arms is being taken away.

One thing I would like to address in something more than 140 characters is the fact that there is no single problem with gun control. Many people like to point fingers, saying “Guns kill people!” and “No, people kill people!”. If you’re one of these people, let me enlighten you. There is no one single cause for gun violence. Yes, there have been shootings where we question the mental health of the perpetrator. As humans, we have a need for cognition. We need to know why people do these things, and one of the easiest way to comprehend this is by blaming it on their mental health.

I think we can all agree that guns technically don’t kill people. If I set a gun down on the table, it would not shoot by itself. So, for those pro-NRA and pro-Second Amendment that seem to have pointed out the obvious, guns do not kill people. But they make killing people a whole hell of a lot easier to do. It is easier to kill masses of people when you have guns that can kill in a second. Imagine if perpetrators committed these mass murders with knives. The death rates would be lower simply because it would be harder to kill more people in a quick amount of time. Time matters in these situations, because in a matter of minutes police arrive to the scene. If killing the masses was what your goal was, then guns would be the way that you would want to do it.

I understand being skeptical of the government and wanting to protect our own rights, but I don’t think it should be at the expense of thousands of lives everyday. I think it’s important to remember that this amendment was set into place in a time where it took longer to reload your weapon.
Gun violence is getting completely out of control. Our country needs us. Wake up, America. What have we become? How did we get to be so violent? There are measures we need to take and we need to take action. We are so quick to send our thoughts and prayers, but they’re not enough. We need to stop arguing about these issues, put aside our political differences, and help to save lives.

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