We’ve let the NRA completely twist our views of issues of life and death.
The entire conversation around gun control in America has been so polluted by the enormous power of the NRA that simple measures — measures that would seem like common sense to anyone outside of the gun-manic bubble of the U.S. — are seen by significant portions of our population as existential threats to the second amendment; attacks against the very fabric that supposedly binds our country.
We’ve let fear and factionalism cloud our vision. We’ve convinced ourselves that gun control is completely off the table, so we leap to the next not-so-logical step: arming teachers. Despite the overwhelming evidence that shows this would do more harm than good, we attempt to fight the issue of gun violence with, you guessed it, more guns. We operate on the flawed assumption that one gun plus one gun equals zero death.
We focus on other issues. We blame the wholesale slaughter of children solely on mental health and the failures of the local police and FBI. We blame everything we possibly can besides the one thing that’s behind it all, the one common denominator in all of these school shootings: easy access to guns.
Now, I’m not saying that mental health and local police accountability are not incredibly important. I’m saying that, to quote Emma Gonzales, “He wouldn’t have been able to kill that many people with a knife.”
We send our thoughts and prayers. We care. We’re sorry. But prayers don’t stop bullets. Caring won’t save us.
We make the murderers famous. We see their faces thousands of times on TV. We all know their names. Shooters have become counterculture icons, amassing thousands of crazed “fans.” Past shooters are mentioned as “inspirations” in the manifestos of newly minted mass murderers. We hold the names and deeds of these people in the forefront of our collective consciousness, but where are the names of their victims? Do you know their names?
We blame the students for not befriending the shooter. As if any of this was their fault. As if anything justifies murder.
When we do occasionally pass legislation to combat gun violence, all we pass are minuscule measures meant only to pacify. And if we do get over ourselves and pass common sense legislation, we also pass more laws to allow guns back into schools. We take one step forward, and two steps back.
We say, “What a shame.” Our hearts break. And then we do nothing. We move on. We forget.
We rationalize our inaction by saying that the status quo is unchangeable. That the issue is too partisan. We attempt to assuage our consciences by reasoning that nothing is the perfect solution, so we shouldn’t try.
I don’t know what the perfect solution is. But I won’t let that stop me. And I hope it won’t stop you, too. We must do better.
We have traveled to the bottom of the ocean. We have flown across continents. We have harnessed the power of the atom. We have put a man on the moon. We have accomplished the impossible. Why can’t we solve an issue as fundamental as gun violence?
We must not lose our momentum. Change will not happen overnight. We must not let the sluggish speed of change dissuade us from action. We are in the midst of a long process that will or will not change an elemental aspect of our society. It is up to us to keep that process moving.
We have the power to change this situation, but if we don’t continue to act, no one will do it for us. Power without action means nothing. So write your representatives. Call your legislators. Protest. March. VOTE.
Petra Ellerby is an 11th-grade student at Bainbridge and Eagle Harbor high schools.