Saturday, 18 June 2016

This Is My Mourning

This is my serious post. Don't expect them too frequently. This occasion merits one, though.

My recurring nightmares all contain shootings. They are a common fear but an accepted fact of life for most American teenagers. We have grown up in a post-9/11 society where it seems necessary to be careful with the emotions of others not because we are good people, but for fear they will shoot up the school if we do otherwise. 

I spend the majority of my time living in London now and it has shown me that life doesn’t have to be this way. Telling Europeans about how we had drills for active shooters in school left them horrified. What kind of country would such a thing be necessary in? I just want to wake up to a world where there isn’t a mass shooting or an unarmed black boy getting gunned down on a near daily basis.

There are a few general arguments for why people think the right to bear arms is acceptable. One of them is the cliched guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Guns certainly don’t help the matter, though. How is it that Mateen was able to purchase all of his weapons from a local, federally licensed shop regardless of being on two federal watch lists? This was an approved sale. Even if there isn’t a complete eradication of guns, tighter restrictions need to be put in place. The purpose of guns is destruction and they were legally put in the hands of a suspicious character who became a mass murderer.

Another argument for the owning of firearms is self defense. This is easily contradicted by a study on nearly 200 cases done in Atlanta showing that home invaders were twice as likely to obtain any weapons in the house and use them violently than the owner’s were to actually use the gun in self defense. People try to divert the attention from guns being a major issue by speaking only of terrorism as the cause of the Orlando massacre. Shifting the focus doesn’t eliminate the fact that 85% of terrorist-caused deaths after 9/11 have been shootings. Propaganda videos released by members of Al Qaeda have expressed how easy it is to get guns in America and encourage members in the West to use this fact to their advantage. We are simplifying the work of terrorists for them.

There is an outrageous amount of proof that stricter gun laws reduce the amount of gun-related deaths. That should be common sense, but if you don’t believe it, allow me to hit you with a few statistics about what the rest of the world is doing right. The big example is Australia. They banned firearms and even bought back guns after a mass shooting in 1996. Since then, there have been no gun related mass killings whatsoever and the firearms death rate dropped 56%. It’s infuriating that we look at this statistic and don’t learn anything from it. For every one million people in the United States there are slightly more than 106 gun deaths. In the UK, there’s only slightly more than 2 for every one million people. We are the number one in developed nations for both firearms per capita and homicide by firearms. It would be foolish to see that as a coincidence.

To endorse owning guns is to turn a blind eye to the deaths of children. Sandy Hook seemed to prove that Americans care more about owning lumps of metal than innocent lives because nothing has improved since then. Admittedly, I am without hope, because if that tragedy didn’t wake the country up, nothing will, but my argument still needs to be made. The injustice is too great to be ignored. Children are the future and poor gun control causes the death of far too many each year. In 2015, 265 children accidentally shot themselves or someone else. This isn’t a problem that can be solved by teaching young people proper weapon handling or running background checks; these toddlers were too young and it was just an accident. Only the elimination of firearms can stop that. No matter how much someone wants to go shooting or have that extra sense of protection from a gun, they would be a monster to believe that is worth hundreds of children being shot yearly.

Let me talk about two major fears that have followed me the past few years: school shootings and teenage suicide. Schools should be a safe space for young people and now they’re riddled with anxiety caused by so much more than exams. Between other students who acted suspiciously and the wariness of unknown adults walking the halls, there was a genuine fear the underlied every day I spent in high school. There have been 188 school shootings in America in the last three years. Children are at risk and educational institutions have turned into the backdrops for revenge plots and crazed acts of destruction. Sometimes this can be self destruction, too. Teenage years are some of the most difficult in anyone’s life and full of issues that are constantly belittled by adults and blown out of proportion by peers. Mix this with the rise in mental illness and the death wishes of teenagers almost become understandable. In 2013, 876 teenagers died from suicide by firearm. Killing yourself with a gun is almost too simple. These young people didn’t even have to think twice. They just pulled a trigger and that was it. Without such easy access to guns, unstable people wouldn’t be able to take their lives nearly as easily.

In The Taming of the Shrew Shakespeare wrote “our lances are but straws”. That line has been running through my mind a lot the past few days. No matter what words or facts I use to express how wrong the owning of firearms is, people at large refuse to listen. It might be my age, gender, or their general stubbornness causing this. What I  write may not make a difference, but if I do not put the emotions of my fellow millennials down in writing it will take me apart from the inside out. I hate feeling like a target. I hate that politicians won’t change anything no matter how much they tweet their condolences because the NRA is giving them money. I hate that the LGBTQ community was finally being accepted into the world only to have their fear be re-instilled by a madman with a gun. It is so easy for individuals to act on their hatred nowadays and shoot up whatever they don’t agree with. Singers and children are being killed because of someone else’s agenda. The only thing we have to rely on is faith that other people will be good and not choose to murder the innocent, and I have never lived in a world where that is enough. In 2015, there were 372 mass shootings in the USA. Imagine 372 of anything. Realize that there were more mass shootings than days in the year. Try to carry on with everyday life without fear or anger.

Sources In Order They Were Used:

Kellermann, A. L. "Weapon Involvement in Home Invasion Crimes." JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical 
Association 273.22 (1995). Web.
"Information on More than 140,000 Terrorist Attacks." Global Terrorism Database. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 June 2016.
Leigh, A., and C. Neill. "Do Gun Buybacks Save Lives? Evidence from Panel Data." American Law and Economics Review 12.2 (2010). Web.
"Guns in the United States - Firearms, Gun Law and Gun Control." Guns in the United States - Firearms, Gun Law and Gun Control. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 June 2016.
Grinshteyn, Erin, and David Hemenway. "Violent Death Rates: The US Compared with Other High-income OECD Countries, 2010." The American Journal of Medicine 129.3 (2016). Web.
"The #NotAnAccident Index of Unintentional Shootings."EverytownResearch.org. N.p., 30 Apr. 2015. Web. 14 June 2016.
"The Long, Shameful List of School Shootings in America."EverytownResearch.org. N.p., 02 Oct. 2015. Web. 14 June 2016.
Leitsinger, Miranda. "Suicide by Firearm Among American Youth Hit 12-Year High in 2013 - NBC News." NBC News. N.p., 9 Feb. 2015. Web. 14 June 2016.
"Mass Shootings - 2015." Gun Violence Archive. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 June 2016.

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