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“What’s notable about this mass shooting is the gun used to commit the act wasn’t stolen, it wasn’t purchased illegally on the black market and he didn’t stumble upon the weapon and impulsively decide to end the lives of 21 others. None of the wild scenarios that our “leaders” like to use to defend gun rights, occurred. The shooter purchased an AR-15 rifle for his 18th birthday just days before the shooting.”

Photo illustration by Nick Harris, VOX Teen Staff

 

America’s Gun Violence  is Unsustainable – An Opinion Piece By a Terrified Teenager

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If you’ve seen the news over the last week, you’re aware of the massacre that took place on May 24 at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Just days before I sat down to write this, 19 children and 2 teachers were fatally shot by 18-year-old Salvador Rolando Ramos, with 18 others injured during the attack. While news like this will always be shocking, scary, and disheartening, according to the Gun Violence Archive, the murders in Uvalde mark the 692nd mass shooting to take place in the United States since 2013.

In fact, according to the CDC, gun violence has grown to be the leading cause of death among American children and teens. Knowing that the Uvalde massacre unfortunately showcases a pattern in our country, you’d think that leadership officials would be eager to put an end to the violence, but all we’ve heard from those whose decisions matter most is a harrowing echo of “thoughts and prayers” every time something like this happens.

The reality is, what happened in Uvalde was shocking, but not surprising. We knew that changes needed to be made after what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, we knew that changes needed to be made after what happened at Virginia Tech in 2007, we knew that changes needed to be made after what happened at Columbine High School in 1999. However, we can’t expect change to come if we don’t do anything about it. Or more notably, if the people in positions of power who are supposed to make decisions that better the state of our community don’t do anything.

So what exactly have our “leaders” said in response to the mass shooting in Uvalde? Any action? Any proposals for legislation that would reduce gun violence?  Well, Vice President Kamala Harris posted to Twitter that she’s “praying and standing with the people of Uvalde.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell posted to Twitter that “the entire country is praying” and that he’s “heartbroken by the reports of disgusting violence.” As dispiriting as it may be, the performative tweets don’t stop there. Ted Cruz has been the senator of Texas for nine years, during which seven mass shootings have taken place in the state. It doesn’t take much to realize after eight mass shootings that the current system we have in place isn’t sustainable, but the senator seems to disagree. Instead of talking about active and effective solutions that could reduce gun violence in the state he swore to defend against domestic and international threats, he doubled down on the gun-toting tangents that he’s used to stay in office over the last 9 years. At the NRA convention that took place in Texas last Friday, Ted Cruz rejected calls for gun control, just 72 hours after posting to Twitter that “we’ve seen too many of these shootings.” I have to wonder what the senator expects to change about the violence that’s running wild in the state he calls home if he doesn’t do anything about it? Prayer without action is just noise, and he has the power to change the state of the nation. But instead, he uses that power to reject gun control laws that would, in fact, better the state of Texas.

What’s notable about this mass shooting in particular is that the gun used to commit the act wasn’t stolen from Ramos’s parents, it wasn’t purchased illegally on the black market, he didn’t stumble upon the weapon and impulsively decide to end the lives of 21 others. None of the wild scenarios that our “leaders” like to use to defend gun rights, occurred. The shooter purchased an  AR-15 rifle for his 18th birthday just days before the shooting. In fact, he legally purchased two AR-15 rifles days before the shooting. There’s no reason for anyone, let alone an 18 year-old, to wield assault-style rifles, available for casual use and at their disposal. Aside from the fact that this just highlights the unsustainability of our current system, it also rebuts the argument frequently made by gun-toting politicians, that criminals don’t purchase weapons legally. Here we have a teenager, who legally purchased two assault rifles, and used them to wound dozens. What’s even more astonishing is that according to federal law, you must be at least 21 to purchase a handgun, but it’s completely legal for anyone over the age of 18 to purchase rifles in the state of Texas. The current system and practices we have in place essentially enable young mass shooters to commit atrocities like the one seen in Uvalde.

So what needs to be done?

In short, we need our leaders to do something. Empty promises and a cycle of violence, thoughts and prayers, and more violence are frankly, unsustainable for the long-term state of our nation. Obviously, the current system we have in place isn’t working, as 32 children are shot and injured every day in America. After Australia experienced a mass shooting in 1996, they outlawed semi-automatic rifles, and endorsed a buy-back policy. As a result, they saw zero mass shootings in 22 years. Following a 1997 mass shooting in the United Kingdom, the country placed a ban on handguns and have since experienced two mass shootings in the 25 years since. In contrast, the United States has experienced 692 mass shootings since 2013.

On Thursday night during a live televised address to the nation, President Biden finally called for the reinstatement of a ban on the production of assault-style rifles, but also admitted that he lacks the congressional support to realistically accomplish much.

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What can you do?

You can help out the families in Uvalde by visiting the link here, which contains a list of verified fundraisers to support Uvalde families affected by the attack on Tuesday. Additionally, here is the link to marches and protests coordinated by March For Our Lives, an organization that aims to help end the gun violence epidemic. Furthermore, you can sign this March For Our Lives petition that demands universal background checks before the approval and subsequent purchase of firearms.

Enough is enough.

 

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