I first started writing this piece in support of gun control measures after Christina Grimmie was shot inside the venue of her own concert. Twenty-four hours later, the mass shooting in Orlando left me at a complete loss for words. That day, I wandered around my house, confused as to how something so horrible could continue to happen in my country. This feeling stretched on for the next week or so, and it broke my heart to think about how much worse the families of the victims were feeling. I kept thinking back to a few weeks earlier, when I woke up terrified from a nightmare in which a shooter approached my dad and little brother — and how, for too many people, this isn’t just a bad dream but a reality.
As a teenager, I’m still trying to fully develop my beliefs about many political issues. I spend a lot of time researching them and am often hesitant to make major decisions about where I stand. But gun control is no longer an issue about which I will remain silent. This isn’t about divided political parties. It’s about innocent lives at risk. It’s more an issue of common sense than it is a political one.
I’ve felt this way ever since I saw a segment that then–Daily Show contributor John Oliver did about gun control in Australia three years ago. After a mass shooting, they implemented gun control legislation that required firearm owners to be 18 years old, complete a safety course, and have a "genuine reason" for owning a gun (excluding personal protection). After learning how successful Australia’s steps toward gun control had been (there have been no fatal mass shootings since they implemented that legislation in 1996), my position was set. It’s hard to argue with this legislation's success, and some who formerly opposed gun control in Australia are happy with these results.
Australia isn’t the only country that has experienced success with gun control legislation. Great Britain’s gun control has also worked, and comparing gun violence in the U.K. with that in the U.S. is frightening: In 2011, firearms killed 59 people in all of England and Wales, whereas 77 people were killed by firearms in Washington, D.C., alone, according to the Washington Post. Additionally, the number of gun deaths from 2000 to 2013 exceeds the number of Americans killed by AIDS, illegal drug overdoses, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and terrorism combined, according to Vox. In fact, CBS News reports that the United States’s gun-related murder rate is 25 times higher than 22 other high-income nations.
While many might argue that the Second Amendment makes the U.S. different from all of these countries, I think it is important to note that just because the right to bear arms exists doesn’t mean you can’t regulate it in a way that will help protect and benefit American citizens. Discovering the way other countries have successfully handled this issue while gun violence is still so prevalent in the United States infuriated me. I was even more outraged when I realized that certain states still see fit to more strictly regulate things like the purchase of fireworks than the purchase of guns.
But as disappointing as this reality is, watching Senator Chris Murphy, Senator Cory Booker, and many other legislators filibuster for gun control legislation earlier this month brought me some hope — so much so that I stayed up watching C-Span in my bedroom until 12:30 a.m. just to hear them out and finally witness some promise of change.
I was all the more heartbroken, therefore, when even an attempt to propose relatively minor gun legislation — which sought to restrict those on federal terror watch lists from obtaining guns and to mandate background checks for sales at gun shows and over the internet — was stopped in the Senate. At just 16 years old, I already felt myself becoming frustrated and disillusioned with the government of which I had always dreamed of one day being a part.
But despite this defeat, I refuse to accept that change is impossible. I refuse to accept that our government will stand by while the innocent people it supposedly represents are being killed, and I refuse to accept that just because it is unlikely we’ll get rid of all guns we should not take any action. Especially considering that the majority of Americans support these changes, I urge more members of Congress to represent their constituents and support gun control legislation — even if this means sacrificing an election or their political careers to do so. This happened to some politicians in Australia, but I strongly believe that the number of lives those politicians saved by taking that stand — and the number of lives American politicians could save — is surely worth this sacrifice.
After the Senate failed to pass the gun legislation Senator Murphy proposed, he tweeted that he is not going anywhere nor backing down on this issue, which he demonstrated when he joined the #NoBillNoBreak sit-in in the House. I plan to stand with him and support his campaign, and I encourage everyone else to join me. I encourage everyone to continue to reach out to their representatives and remind them that they represent citizens who support gun control legislation, so that they will continue the progress made so far when they do return from break instead of forgetting about this issue until another tragedy strikes. I encourage everyone to keep calling and tweeting these representatives and pushing on this issue so that, someday soon, Americans will no longer have to deal with the unfathomable tragedy that is losing loved ones to gun violence.
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