As I woke up on Sunday morning reflecting on the shooting in El Paso, TX, I read the news of nine people killed in Dayton, OH. In Chicago, four people were killed and another 43 have been wounded since Friday, and that didn’t even make the news. It has been overwhelming to see so many tragedies across the country, and sickening to know that all of these tragedies could have been prevented. My generation is on the front lines of the fight for reform.
Since the shooting at my high school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas in 2018, I have not stopped asking myself, why? Why do these shootings continue to happen and why do our politicians not do everything in their power to end America’s gun violence epidemic?
The reality is that in America, no one and nowhere is safe from gun violence. We can’t go to the mall, a concert, school, places of worship, or work without a lingering feeling that maybe today will be our last day.
Whether we are from rural America or a big city, all of our communities are affected. These tragedies are happening in the most progressive counties. They are happening in conservative areas fervent about their gun rights. We constantly talk about our differences, but bullets don’t discriminate. They don’t pledge allegiance and they don’t have politics. Despite this, we know that politics is at the heart of it all.
There is no one size fits all solution to the plague on our country that is gun violence, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
Last week, I was in Houston for March For Our Lives’ first student summit. We called it “Our Power” — for obvious reasons. On Tuesday, 300 of us sat together and listened to presidential candidates talk about how we, as a nation, are failing to address gun violence in America. While I’m far from deciding who will get my vote, I was struck by something Mayor Pete Buttigieg said.
He said when Columbine happened in 1999, he was a junior in high school. I wasn’t even born yet. He said that he was part of “the first generation that saw routine school shootings.” My generation and what happened in Parkland effectively represented the second generation of school-based mass shootings. He ended by saying that we ought not allow a third generation to live in America where guns represent a lethal and daily threat to our lives.
Since the shooting at my school, we young people have come together to do what adults haven’t been able to do, and what many community organizers have been fighting for, for decades. We’ve called on the nation to change course. To demand that something be done about guns deaths that take the lives of nearly 40,000 people each year. We registered over 50,000 voters in 2018, helped inspire over 100 gun violence prevention bills at state and local level, and organized a national coalition of mayors to increase young voter participation.
There is no one size fits all solution to the plague on our country that is gun violence, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. As many people are in this country’s current climate, I am afraid. Afraid to go to school. Afraid to leave the house. Afraid to get stopped by a police officer. Is that the “American Dream” that this country holds so dear? Is this dream attainable for a young Black woman, just trying to make her country safer? No one can achieve this dream while in constant fear for their life.
As part of America’s growing population of people closely affected by gun violence, I, too, won’t stop fighting until we’ve put an end to the tragedies that have become the norm. It’s a norm that follows the same unending cycle — the tragedy, the offer of thoughts and prayers, and continued inaction by our politicians. And then it repeats.
What if we as a nation committed to no more mass shootings and gun violence tragedies? What if we held the politicians accountable for more than the hollow offering of thoughts and prayers? What if we didn’t have to praise first responders for their courage and bravery because they no longer had to run into a school to take out an active shooter or clean up the aftermath of a shooting?
What if Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his NRA-funded Senate stopped stonewalling and brought S. 42, the Senate version of the House-passed universal background bill for a vote Voters from all over the nation must call their Senators and House Representatives and demand they vote in support of stricter gun laws. And if they don’t you have the incredible power to vote into office those who will.
There is broad public support for common-sense reforms that could very well start to reduce gun deaths in America. If we wanted, we could commit to ending mass shootings altogether. There are many things that could be done, like demanding Congress pass universal background checks and extreme-risk protection orders, but NRA-funded politicians in both the House and Senate think they know better. They don’t know better and mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton prove it. Just as Gilroy Garlic Festival, Parkland, Route 91 Harvest music festival, Pulse Night Club, Tree of Life synagogue and so many mass shootings prove it.
The nation is tired of this. I’m tired of this. It’s time we did something about it.
Tyah-Amoy Roberts is a member of the board of directors of March For Our Lives. She is a 2019 graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. The views expressed are her own.