I think we can all recall sitting in an elementary school classroom as our teachers passionately preached “violence is not the answer!” As 10-year-olds, it is understandable that we could not quite comprehend what the phrase truly meant. The word “violence,” undeniably vague, carries immense baggage. Is violence slapping your friend lightly on the arm for confiscating your cookie in the cafeteria? Or is violence burying a handgun in your backpack and hopping on the yellow school bus. Ironically, the place that we learned the mantra “violence is not the answer” became a breeder for the most violent of them all: shooters.
The recent events in Kenosha have led me to reflect upon what my public school experience has taught me. Although thankfully I have never been a victim of a school shooting, I vividly remember sitting in my fifth grade classroom, hearing about the Sandy Hook massacre and feeling the indescribable panic of “could this happen to me?”
As young and naive as I was — and still am — I took it upon myself to ask questions at a young age. Who in their right mind would invade an elementary school with deadly intentions? Why did this clearly unwell man own a gun in the first place? The American government has enabled murders of innocent civilians because of its inability to enact meaningful legislation regarding gun violence.
The deaths in Kenosha due to Kyle Rittenhouse’s “violence” raises some questions. How was a minor able to obtain such an intense weapon? How did the police stand by as he instantly became a murderer? How was he able to flee the area after he committed atrocities?
Rittenhouse killed two people while claiming his intentions were to restore order in an area where “anarchy” took place. The irony within this behavior is overwhelming. When will gun violence no longer become the norm in crowded environments? Apparently not so soon. Gun violence has increased in multiple states by large percentages. Specifically in New York City, where there has been a 44 percent spike in shootings since last year.
Rittenhouse was in no way, shape or form harmed by the police. He sported that massive AR-15 around his neck like a fashion statement and waltzed into the crowd with the most malicious of intentions. Philando Castile was murdered for simply having a weapon in his vehicle.
Castile was pulled over in 2016 by a local officer. Castile informed the officer that he had a firearm in his car. After his death, Castile’s family revealed that he was permitted to own and carry a firearm. Castile was then shot at seven times without removing the gun or even posing a threat. The white man carrying a massive weapon was sent to jail, while the black man who was licensed to carry a gun and made no threat was brutally murdered.
This is a clear instance of a racial disparity that comes from gun ownership.
Picture this: Rittenhouse storms the Kenosha protest, dragging the large firearm by his neck. This time, Rittenhouse is a black seventeen year old. It would be foolish to assume that if this version of the story were true, every officer attending the protest would not have whipped out their hand gun and fired.
Another example of undeniable racism is within the story of Breonna Taylor’s death. Police officers forcibly entered her and her boyfriend’s home in search of illicit cash and drugs. The police were investigating two men that they believed were selling drugs out of a home far from Ms. Taylor’s. The judge that was involved in the case had also signed a warrant allowing the police to search Breonna’s apartment because they had suspected the men were using it to receive packages.
Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend, a legal gun owner, made an attempt to defend his home with a weapon. Consequently, Taylor was murdered by the police with no criminal history. The “illicit money” and “drugs” were never found within the home.
Taylor’s innocence and the police racism that took place in her murder further prove that civilians are being killed as a result of uncontrollable weapon usage, in this case by a person of higher authority. Although Taylor’s story focuses more on how she was treated because of her race, the concept of gun violence is an underlying factor in her tragic death.
Statistically, more than 35%of gun deaths in the United States are gun homicides, meaning 33 people are murdered with a gun every single day. Interestingly enough, the CDC passed the Dickey Amendment in 1996 which proclaimed gun violence research illegal. In the same bill, Congress allocated $2.6 million from the CDC’s budget, the exact same amount that had been reserved for firearms research the previous year, to traumatic brain injury research.
Evidently, the deaths and injuries corresponding with gun violence are not enough for Congress to make waves in regards to researching gun violence in the United States. As the years went on, Congress discovered a loophole in their plan to maintain reckless weaponry in the country. On March 21, 2018, an Omnibus continuing resolution was established. The Dickey Amendment was still in place, of course, but this time the CDC was able to conduct research, just without necessary government appropriated funds.
About 83 percent of gun owners support increasing background checks when it comes to owning firearms. On the contrary, the NRA has spent $1.6 million lobbying against background check expansion laws in the months leading up to our nation’s most recent mass shootings. The NRA has been aggressively targeting a proposal that passed the Democratic controlled house stating that stricter background checks for people looking to buy guns would be enforced.
Acquiring a firearm is a major responsibility. If a person with a gun is in a compromised state, lives are undeniably at stake. School shooters specifically have been described as unwell or going through traumatic events. The sheer fact that these murderers were able to acquire a lethal weapon in the first place is a major issue in our country. It seems we are so obsessed with keeping a money-making industry alive that the lives of our people cannot — and will not — be prioritized.
The NRA’s net worth is estimated to be about $500 million. To shut down a business with such wealth would be detrimental to the economy. Additionally, the CEO of the NRA’s net worth is around 10 million. It is doubtful he would want to relinquish his wealth and power.
The “gun show loophole” refers to the fact that numerous states do not require background checks for firearms sold or traded at gun shows by private individuals. There have been many investigations regarding the loophole, but without intense background checks for anyone attempting to purchase or trade a weapon, lives are put at risk.
“Violence is not the answer.” That phrase and the irony of where it was taught still pierces through my mind. Despite my ignorance in that elementary school class of our world’s major issues, it was not hard for me to grasp the prevalence of gun violence in our country.
When did it become normal for an AR-15 to become an essential household item? Innocent lives continue to end due to reckless weapon usage. We need reform. If gun control continues to be overlooked, people will continue to die from this epidemic.
Alexandra is a Freshman studying Communications. Do you think gun violence is a major issue? Do you think gun control is necessary? Send all comments to firstname.lastname@example.org