In the final week of last semester, news of a massacre in Connecticut shocked and saddened our nation and our community. Several vigils were held at Shove by the Chaplain’s office in the wake of the bloodshed.
The news seared into our memory with constant television reports and incredible page-covering headlines in The New York Times. Twenty children between the ages of five and six and six adults were shot to death at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Two days after the tragedy, an hour-long dialogue concluded with a vigil led by GROW, CC’s mental health awareness club. Around Colorado and across the world, vigils were held to memorialize the twenty children and six teachers killed.
As I comforted several friends brought to tears by the tragedy and they comforted me, many of my loved ones in New York attended a vigil in Central Park. Eventually, a large-scale nighttime vigil was held on the Brooklyn Bridge, where just this week, protesters gathered to demand that the federal government follow in New York’s footsteps to demand greater gun control.
Family and friends of mine, and of many others at Colorado College, were forced into lockdowns at churches and schools in Ridgefield County, Conn. in the days following the shooting. My 13-year-old niece, along with thousands of other children, was put on lockdown several days in a row due to false threats of another shooting.
The president stated that hearing the news was the worst moment of his presidency, and at a speech in Newtown just days after the massacre, he told the nation that gun control now had to be our number-one federal priority.
As politicians and political pundits have reminded us in the wake of the shooting, the United States has a gun violence problem incomparable to any other developed nation. According to U.N Office of Drugs and Crime, and consistent with WHO statistics, a few dozen people are killed by gun violence in other developed countries like Italy, Germany, England, Norway, Spain, Canada and France. Meanwhile, well over 30,000 are killed annually in the United States. Just this week, a 15-year-old boy opened fire in Albuquerque, killing three children and two adults. At gun shows in North Carolina, Indiana, and Ohio, several people have been injured recently in accidental shootings.
Undeniably, guns in America have become a matter of national security.
While the far-right propagates the idea that owning a gun makes you safer, studies by the Harvard School of Public Health have shown that American gun owners are 46 times more likely to unintentionally kill or injure themselves or someone else than they are to protect themselves against a home intruder. There were 680 accidental shooting deaths and 15,550 accidental shooting injuries in the United States last year alone according to the UNODC. Owning a gun is far more likely to endanger you than it is to protect you. The Harvard School of Public Health has also found that suicides, homicides, and accidental manslaughters and injuries are more likely to occur in homes where a gun is present than they are in one without a gun.
In the wake of the international firestorm of attention drawn to the horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, American politicians, led by president Obama, have introduced and enforced popular, practical measures to reduce gun violence. These include stricter enforcement of background checks, as White House reports indicate only seven percent of legally obtained firearms in the United States were done so with the legally mandated background checks. Other measures include improvements to America’s mental health system and an assault weapons ban. While Americans are opposed to strict gun control, Gallup polls taken since the Sandy Hook massacre show that a majority of Americans support the measures taken by President Obama and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
While the measures are undoubtedly a step in the right direction, they are clearly not nearly enough..
Handguns are the real issue here – the real source of gun violence in America. The National Crime Victimization Survey found that ninety-five percent of all gun homicides are committed with handguns. Assault weapons have proven themselves as weapons of mass destruction in Aurora and Newtown. According to the UNODC, 30 to 35 Americans are killed every day with handguns. While assault weapons are more common in mass shootings, handguns have also been used in mass shootings, like the deadliest one in American history – Virginia Tech in 2007.
Without a serious ban on handguns and a mission by the U.S. government to confiscate handguns like they were confiscated in the United Kingdom or Germany, America’s gun violence epidemic will continue.
Politicians and political pundits on the left are neutering their own attempts to control gun ownership. We can’t simply ban assault weapons and install a couple dozen measures to curb gun violence and then walk away from the problem expecting dramatic results.
The loudest voice in support of far broader gun control is the voice of gun violence survivors. Colin Goddard, a survivor of the Virginia Tech massacre who now works with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said last Wednesday that, in order for America to overcome the NRA, “We need a movement.”
Real, bold, drastic activism is necessary to compete with the NRA lobby. Pressure needs to mount on Obama and congress to ban what have become weapons of mass destruction in the streets, colleges, shopping malls, movie theaters, elementary schools, and homes of America.
It’s time the U.S. joined the rest of the world and banned guns that aren’t used to hunt. For the sake of our children and our future as a secure country, we must ban guns now.
The longer we wait, the more people die. Are we to live in a country where guns kill five children a day, or are we to demand an end to the carnage?