Growing Up with Mass Shootings
Our American reporter talks about her experiences growing up in the United States.
26 people dead. 49 people dead. 58 people dead. The number of people never seems to matter.
We go through a cycle in the United States; there is a mass shooting, politicians provide their hopes and prayers and say this isn’t the time to talk about gun control. Liberals and conservatives argue about gun laws, and then we are quiet again until another mass shooting occurs. At this point, the whole world knows what our cycle is, and most people are dumbfounded at why we do not have safer gun law. I am too, I know that we have second amendment rights, but when people are dying in excessive numbers you expect your government to do something.
I have been growing up with mass shooting since I was a child. One of the first reports I can remember was about an incident at a school in Columbine, Colorado. It was 1999, and I did not truly grasp the idea that two teenage boys stormed into their high school and killed their classmates. I didn’t realise then, but that was just the start of many more mass shooting reports I would hear. Since then, I have lost track of how many stories I have heard. I remember the first time that my grade school practised a lockdown drill in the event an intruder entered the building. Nothing about that drill felt uncommon to me when I was a child.
“I did not truly grasp the idea that two teenage boys stormed into their high school and killed their classmates”
As I have grown into an adult, I have realised how the constant reminder of intruders with guns has started to affect me mentally. Sometimes I have hesitated going to the cinema because someone could start shooting. I have even caught myself looking for the closest exits or planning escape routes in my head. When I went off to university, mass shooting become more frequent. There were times when I started to feel anxious in my classroom and I would intently watch anyone that walked by the room. All of these escape plans and anxiety made me feel like I was paranoid. Did I really have anything to fear?
Over a period of 1,870 days leading to the Parkland shooting in Florida on 15 February 2018, there were 1,624 mass shootings, according to the Gun Violence Archive, as illustrated by The Guardian. Every month a new mass shooting was reported. It could happen at movie theatres, office buildings, schools, restaurants, just about anywhere. The government continues to ignore the statistics about how America has more gun deaths than any other developed nation.
In 1996, Scotland experienced its worst mass shooting in history stated in the Britannica Encyclopedia. Thomas Hamilton walked into a primary school in Dunblane and killed 17 people, mainly school children. The massacre was shocking enough that in 1997, Parliament passed a law banning private ownership of handguns above .22 calibre and later that year banned all handguns. In addition, there were more security requirements for gun clubs. After these laws were passed, the UK never experienced another mass shootings. Today law enforcement can trace back fewer than 1,000 illegal weapons that are still in circulation according to the Washington Post. Therefore, why haven’t we done this in America?
This is what Republicans had to say in wake of the Florida high school massacre — and how much they get paid by the gun lobby. pic.twitter.com/l0VoZgIZUu
— HuffPost (@HuffPost) February 15, 2018
One of the most significant problems in the United States is the National Rifle Association (NRA), who has a powerful hold over many politicians in Washington. The NRA spends around $54m on Republican candidates to secure their control of Congress, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, and more than $30m went into Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign.
Another unique problem that the US has is the abundance of guns that circulate throughout the country. German Lopez, a reporter for Vox, wrote that : “In 2007 it was estimated that for the number of civilian-owned firearms in the US was 88.8 guns per 100 people, meaning there was almost one privately owned gun per American and more than one per American adult”: With more guns, the US also has higher gun homicide rates than other western nations. Lastly, America fails to mention after a mass shooting that this is a gun problem and instead insist it is a mental health problem.
After the last mass shooting in Parkland, I had expected the same cycle to happen again. It had started until the survivors of the shooting said that this was enough and began to speak out against politicians who were saying the same rehearsed scripted they said after every mass shooting. They were speaking on the news, protesting, and the general feeling of the country was starting to shift. People were starting to get more angry at politicians than they ever had before. A national walkout was planned for students on March 14 where they would walk out of their classroom in demand for new gun laws. When the day came students across the country dressed in orange, protested with signs or bowed their heads in a moment of silence for the 17 lives lost during the Parkland Shooting.
I was reading the news and looking at pictures, I noticed my former high school also participated in the walkout. I felt myself tear up because I have been waiting for this type of action for years. No person has challenged politicians enough about creating safer gun laws until this year. Watching these high school students create a reaction around the country was amazing. I do not know if this will change gun laws this year or even next year, but I do feel more hopeful that change is possible in America.