Gun control

Teens for Gun Reform protests in Washington D.C. after a gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14, 2018. Photo by Lorie Shaull.

As I write this, 19 families in Uvalde, Texas will begin planning the funerals of their children, who were gunned down by a man with an AR-15 in their elementary school classroom. As I write this, yet another community is being torn apart by the senseless tragedy of a mass shooting. As I write this, our nation’s parents are holding their children a little closer, praying that they will not be next. 

Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado experienced one of the most infamous school shootings in American history in 1999. Since that day, 554 school shootings have occurred in the United States. 185 people have been murdered in school shootings. 369 people have been injured in school shootings.

And yet, the same cycle occurs every time one of these senseless tragedies happens. Thoughts and prayers are sent to the families and victims. Public figures call it “unimaginable.” A debate occurs about possible reforms to stop this from happening again. People forget. People move on. And then, it happens again. 

Thoughts and prayers will not shield the next classroom targeted by a mass shooter from gunfire. This tragedy was not “unimaginable,” it was a statistical likelihood. This tragedy was predictable because school shootings are distinctly American events. No other country in the world has experienced as many school shootings as America has, and no other country has the NRA and a gun lobby donating to political candidates to sway their votes.

Currently, states all around the country, including Texas, are passing laws that extremely lessen the requirements to obtain a firearm. In fact, in order to carry a weapon publicly in Texas, an individual does not have to undergo training or obtain a permit.

The debate seems never-ending. How do we stop this from happening again? What is our path forward? But, there are no words left to say that have not been said, only actions left to take that have not been taken.

It is time for sweeping, common-sense gun legislation in our country. It is time for universal background checks, a federal ban on high-capacity magazines and a federal assault weapons ban.

America previously banned assault weapons from 1994 to 2004, and a study from the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery found that mass shootings were 70% less likely to happen during the aforementioned period wherein assault weapons were banned. 

But Evan, won’t the bad guys still get guns if they want them?

Maybe. But, why not at least try to stop them? Even if passing these laws only saves one child from being gunned down in their classroom, is it not worth it? I grew up being told that America was a country of brave souls always fighting to create a more perfect union. Where is that America? I grew up in fear of being shot in my classroom. 

On a warm August day in 2018, an armed criminal evading the authorities wrecked his car in my high school’s parking lot. He fled his vehicle before police arrived at the scene, sending our school into a chaotic lockdown. I huddled with my classmates in the corner of my classroom, sending the “I love you” text to my parents that so many other children have had to send, wondering if I was going to die.

Other classmates of mine armed themselves with baseball bats and other blunt instruments. One of my friends perched herself on a toilet seat for the duration of the lockdown to avoid being seen in the bathroom. No person should ever have to do that. So, why not try everything we can to prevent this from happening again? 

But Evan, why not put more armed people in schools to stop shooters?

There were armed individuals at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. It did not stop the shooter. There was an armed officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. It did not stop the shooter. There was even an armed officer at Columbine High School on that fateful day in 1999. It did not stop the shooters.

What will stop the shooters? First and foremost, doing everything we can to stop these people from getting guns like an AR-15 that can kill dozens of people in a matter of seconds.

If “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” were true, then wouldn’t America, a country with more guns than people, be the safest country on earth?

But Evan, what about the Second Amendment?

I grew up in a home with guns. I have fired guns. My father and brother own guns. I am in favor of the right to bear arms. However, every amendment to our constitution is regulated and has limitations.

An amendment written in 1791 by men who had only fired muskets should not prevent us from stopping children who still have their baby teeth from being slaughtered in their classrooms. The second amendment calls for a “well-regulated militia.” I ask anyone using this argument to answer, what about this seems well-regulated to you?

I ask anyone reading this to do your part. Ask yourself, what if it was your child? Your parent? Your sibling? Your family? Your community? Yourself? Call your elected officials and ask them to do their part. Register to vote. Research candidates. And when you go to vote, hold the elected officials who have remained stagnant on this issue for decades accountable, because there is blood on their hands. 

Change has to happen and it cannot wait. 

If you are a Tennessee resident and would like to register to vote, visit this linkIf you would like to research the candidates that will be on your ballot, visit this link.

Evan Mays is a senior at UT studying social work. He can be reached at emays4@vols.utk.edu.

Columns and letters of The Daily Beacon are the views of the individual and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Beacon or the Beacon's editorial staff.

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