One hundred forty-nine days ago: Nine parishioners were shot dead with a legally purchased 45-caliber handgun in Charleston, N.C.
Seventy-nine days ago: Two journalists were shot on live TV with a legally purchased 9mm handgun in Moneta, Va.
Forty-three days ago: 10 people were shot with six legally purchased handguns and rifles at the Umpqua Community College campus in Roseburg, Ore.
This is not news. Hearing about another mass shooting is not as shocking as it should be. We have become so desensitized that we feel powerless. We have grown numb to the daily reminder that none of us are safe from the national epidemic of gun violence. The gun lobby has proven to be more powerful than our demand and desire for a safer world.
The very senselessness that leads to the act of randomly taking someone’s life through the pull of a trigger is mirrored in our paralyzed response to the tragedies. The families of every victim taken by gun violence — along with the rest of the American people — are left wondering who will be next.
We shouldn’t have to wait to find out.
As a freshman at Georgetown, I was pleased to find out about Georgetown Against Gun Violence: a club committed to educating the community about gun violence and to leading a movement for reform, starting with students. The two founders of the club, Emma Iannini (SFS ’16) and Sarah Clements (COL ’18), are from Newtown, Conn. After the Sandy Hook shooting, three years ago this December, Emma, Sarah and many other activists around the country transformed their pain into positive change. They have called on all of us to be more than simple bystanders who are silenced by the seemingly impossible task ahead. They encourage us to stand up and demand that our voices be heard.
I’ve lived my whole life in the flatlands of Oakland, Calif., a place I’m proud to call home. I have fond memories of the streets of Oakland, such as playing kickball with the neighborhood kids and walking to school with my dad and sisters. But although I always feel safe at home, my neighborhood is no stranger to violence — gang-related or otherwise.
Two years ago this December my 20-year-old cousin Michael was walking home late at night about a mile from my house. A local gang member drove up the street and shot Michael point-blank in the head with an illegally purchased gun. He shot him from inside his car, then drove off. He took his life because he thought Michael had done something he had not done. He killed Michael on a hunch. My cousin was left lying on the sidewalk because someone had mistaken him for someone else.
Before Michael was murdered, the street corners with candles in remembrance to victims and the names of homicide victims in the news all seemed to be the sad realities of other peoples’ lives. But suddenly, I saw my last name in the pages of the San Francisco Chronicle. A member of my family had died an unnecessary death from a completely preventable cause. Gang retaliation is one example of the many ways in which guns can enable people to act on assumption and emotion. We cannot simply take someone’s life because we have a hunch that they might deserve it in our prejudiced calculus.
While Georgetown students are very diverse, the fact that we have access to a college education gives us a national advantage over countless people and a responsibility to use our resources to give a voice to the voiceless. Whether those at risk from gun violence are suburban elementary school students or inner-city residents, our Jesuit values have instilled in us a call to be women and men for others. As students at Georgetown, we are part of a tradition that fosters social change and leadership in the service of others.
This year marks the first year that deaths by guns outnumber deaths by cars for Americans aged 18 through 30. The National Rifle Association, among others, resists any legislation for gun reform and worries that stricter gun safety laws would compromise America’s most fundamental freedoms.
Gun reform is crucial to preventing guns from falling into the wrong hands and is not an attempt to take away all guns. It’s time to put our safety above the shallow argument that our right to bear arms is at stake
This year, we,as college students have already lived through 26 college campus shootings. A university is an institution of learning. On campus, we should feel safe from unwarranted attacks. It is a shameful truth that many college campuses, including ours, are currently developing comprehensive safety protocols in the case of a school shooting. Unfortunately, these safety protocols are necessary; we cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the terrifying reality at hand.
Previous generations have failed us by refusing to stand up to the gun lobby. Now it is confronting us, and unless we take action, we, too, will fail. We have a responsibility to ourselves and our fellow students to call for gun safety reform and demand action.
We cannot let ourselves grow numb to yet another tragedy. We cannot tolerate being in a constant state of fear. We must find the courage to stand up.
Sarah Stenger is a freshman in the College. She is also the co-Director of the School Safety team at Georgetown Against Gun Violence (GAGV).
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