No person should feel unsafe at school. No person should feel unsafe at their place of worship. No person should feel unsafe attending a concert.
I’ve wanted gun reform since before I could vote, when a student at my high school in Central Oregon took his own life with a hunting gun on a Friday afternoon.
Since 2014, when the incident happened at my school, there have been 229 school shootings in the U.S.
The nation is telling citizens that violence is acceptable and their right to safety comes second to the right to bear arms by continuing to belittle mass shootings. Politicians and citizens often scapegoat mental health rather than addressing the heart of the problem — overwhelming access to guns.
The only predictable factor about gun violence over the last 10 years is that gun- related deaths are consistently rising. In 2016, gun-related deaths increased to 12 per 100,000 people from 11 per 100,000 people the previous year, according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control on Nov. 3.
Our freedom to live without the threat of gun violence is locked in the chains of the Second Amendment.
Conservative political players continuously use phrases such as “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” to argue shootings are unavoidable and at the hands of the individual. But global statistics prove otherwise.
The U.S. has nearly six times more firearms than any other country and five times more mass shootings. Solving the mental health epidemic won’t stop gun violence if there is still mass access to automatic and semiautomatic weapons and a lack of federal oversight like background checks and adequate record keeping.
In my hometown, a 17-year-old was able to use a gun to make decisions that ended his life and affected the community. Newtown, San Bernardino, Orlando, Santa Barbara, Roseburg, Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs experienced tragic gun violence. Yes, behind each shooting is a person, but the common thread in these stories is access.
Even California, the state with some of the strictest gun regulations in the country, suffered 52 mass shootings just this year. There were 1.3 million gun sales in the state in 2016, 450,000 more than 2015.
New gun laws in California have tried to take action against gun violence. This year, owning a gun that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition was made illegal. But California came up against the Second Amendment when trying to enforce stricter gun regulations in the past.
Gun lobbyists fought and won against the proposed gun regulations of Proposition 63 in November 2016 on the grounds that it limited the Second Amendment. Proposition 63 would have limited large capacity magazines and enforced background checks to purchase ammunition.
The federal government needs to create national, comprehensive gun control. Criminal records and purchases need to be tracked. Background checks and bans against automatic and semiautomatic weapons must be put in place.
The Monday following the loss of my classmate I walked into school feeling scared, nervous and anxious in a place that, by law, I was mandated to be. My right to exist and feel safe in a public space was put second to the right to firearms, and this has been the case for many others who’ve faced harder and more traumatizing experiences.
It is time to end this debate by putting safety and freedom as the priority — the freedom to live without the constant threat of gun violence.