And How You Can Fix That
On December 14, 2012, a man walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed twenty children and six staff members. There was immediate action: a We the People petition was started, asking the White House to introduce legislation in Congress that would address the issue of gun control; people donated so much money to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence that its website crashed; Former President Barack Obama signed 23 executive orders in relation to gun control; the state of New York enacted the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act; and other states such as Connecticut and Maryland enacted new gun restrictions.
But then, something changed. Ten states passed legislation that relaxed restrictions on guns. Laws introduced to Congress that were designed to ban assault weapons and expand background checks were defeated in April of 2013. A debate about the effects of violent video games on the mentality of shooters was renewed as an excuse to the horrible behavior of the Sandy Hook shooter. Soon enough, the protests, the demonstrations, and the outrage died down, and people moved on.
At that point, America’s debate on gun control had hit a standstill. That collective action seen in the immediate aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting was never replicated (at least not with the same unity). Not at the recent Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting nor at the ones in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio nor at any of the other 2,179 mass shootings that have happened in America since Sandy Hook (and that number probably even went up between me writing this article and you reading it). Why? Because once we decided that it was okay to kill twenty children, there was nothing really left to debate.
Sandy Hook was what was previously thought to be the worst-case scenario of allowing Americans to carry guns with them. Before it happened, it was just an extreme situation people would bring up in debates. You could tell someone who was pro-guns “If we let Americans own guns, one of them could easily walk into a school and kill twenty kids in a matter of minutes,” and they would just dismiss it. It’s unrealistic, they would say. It won’t happen, they would say.
But then it did.
After it happened, we were outraged, we did fight back, and we did say never again, but that wasn’t enough because soon after, Americans found ways to move on. They found ways to desensitize themselves from what had happened and focus on other aspects of their lives. Heck, people even went out of their way to make it easier for others to get guns.
And that right there is the problem. If twenty dead children aren’t going to motivate America to fix its gun policies, then it doesn’t matter how many more shootings happen after. These policies aren’t going to change for anyone: not for concertgoers in Vegas, not for queer people in Florida, not for college students in Virginia, not for church attendees in Texas, and not for high school students in Colorado.
Now, in 2019, seven years later, someone can just walk into Walmart and buy a gun, the president can write a two-for-one tweet to address mass shootings, and there have been more mass shootings than days in this year. When I read the news and see yet another shooting, it almost feels normal. A shooting should be a wake up call: it should spur us into action and show us that it’s not okay to let people possess such deadly weapons. However, time and time again has shown that that’s not the case. Shootings have become so normalized that it’s rare to have a day go by with no shooting, and that’s horrifying: it should be the other way around.
So, instead of waiting for a mass shooting to happen so you can send your thoughts and prayers, continuously rally for increased gun control: go vote, write to your lawmakers, start discussions in your community, attend protests, and keep fighting for a safer future for all of us. We can’t let this twisted, terrifying world become our new normal, and that can only be achieved if we stop normalizing gun violence and start fighting it. It also can’t just be a few people who are trying to make change; it has got to be all of us. Whether you’re “into politics” or not, this fight is all of ours, and the only way we’re going to win is if we all do our part and tell America that never again will we experience a mass shooting. We won’t allow it.