It was a typical day for me on Wednesday, February 14th, 2018. There I was, sprawled on my couch, nonchalantly scrolling through my Instagram feed on my phone, while avoiding my immense pile of homework. Suddenly, I received a notification from my news app: “School Shooting Kills 17 in Florida.” Immediately, my eyes widened and my heart started to pump out of my chest. “No way.” I thought, “There is no way it could be them.” Flashes of friendly, smiling faces appeared in my mind. Kendall. Emily. Emma. They are my best friends, who I knew since I was in second grade, back when I lived in Florida. With shaky breaths and an unsteady hand, I clicked on the notification. The shooting was in Parkland, Florida. I was halfway through a sigh of relief, when I stopped myself. Those 17 people who were killed were the friends and family of other people who are panicking and mourning at this very second.
It is true: mass shootings have significantly increased over the last couple of years in the U.S. “After Sandy Hook, more than 400 people have been shot in over 200 school shootings” (Patel). However, this shouldn’t desensitize us from the magnitude of each and every single loss. One heartbroken father struggles to speak as he remembers how lively his 14-year-old daughter was. Her presence was known, he said, and she was always the life of the party. Can you imagine what was waiting in the future for this young 14-year-old? So many lost opportunities to make a mark on the world. One victim was a beloved coach, Aaron Feis, who was always looking out “for students who got in trouble, those who were struggling, [and] those without fathers at home.” Now without him, imagine how many more kids at Stoneman Douglas High will never be able to experience the warmth, friendliness, and guidance from Coach Feis (Turkewitz). Without any of these victims, many other lives will be left untouched. Many new experiences will never be made. The string tying these victims to the lives of others has been severed, creating a hole in the network of humanity. “What could have been...” and, “What should have been...” is now be a “Never will be...”
So how did it even come down to this point? The shooter, Nikolas Cruz, is a 19-year-old who lost his mother in the last year and recently lived with a different family. His guardians noticed that he had depression and Cruz possibly had a case of autism as well (Turkewitz). Although these circumstances do not excuse Cruz from such a serious crime, it is certainly clear as to how Cruz could have been pushed over the edge to resort to violence. Could earlier interventions and aid for mental disorders have prevented Cruz from becoming unstable enough to commit such a horrific act? Possibly - and aid for mental disorders is always a vital cause that we should all support - but a direct cause of this crime was the availability of arms for purchase. “The only variable that can explain the high rate of mass shootings in America is the astronomical number of guns.” America’s citizens only make up for 4.4 percent of the global population, but Americans “own 42 percent of the world’s guns” (Oppel). These sheer statistics show a clear trend. And is it not alarming that in Florida, while you have to be 21 to purchase a handgun, you only have to be 18 years old to purchase a semiautomatic rifle, which shoots twice as fast as the former? These weapons should not be allowed to be in the hands of just about anyone. People declaring their right to keep their arms due to the second amendment must realize that the amendment has not changed, but the power and variety of guns have. The purpose of the right to bear arms was to prevent government tyranny. Nowadays, powerful weapons, such as the AR-15 are not needed for “self defense.” Rather than using arms for self defense, these arms will be used for slaughtering many instead.
However, there is still hope for a change. If gun control reforms now, Stoneman Douglas High can be the last location of a mass shooting. Take for example, Australia, which enforced more strict gun control after the Port Arthur incident in 1996 that killed 35 people. As a result, “homicides by firearm plunged 59 percent between 1995 and 2006” (Oremus). Even in the UK, after a shooter killed 16 children, the government created “some of the world’s strictest gun-ownership laws.” Since then, there has been only one mass shooting in the UK (Dewan & Jamie). The U.S. government should follow the examples of other countries, seeing that these steps are feasible and do result in increased safety for citizens. Background checks on mental illnesses, banning of specific, powerful weapons, and increased regulation on gun licensing should all be brought up for discussion in order ensure that our future will not be stripped of the contributions of many lives.
All in all, any feelings of sorrow, frustration, or even anger should not be turned into even more negative feelings aimed towards the shooter, even if what they did was clearly wrong. Instead, we should turn these fiery feelings and translate them into strong feelings of forgiveness towards the shooter, hope for the future, and the determination to come together as the human race. (No matter how strongly you think that they are undeserving of that forgiveness, it will be better place your fervent feelings towards the proper target - the cry for more gun control.) Fighting for more strict gun regulations and bringing about change will prevent even more heartbreaking losses in the future and protect America’s citizens. To make a difference, we must unite and cry out for this change. Contact your local congresspeople and let your voice be heard: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/Home.aspx
Dewan, Angela, and Jamie Tarabay. “What the UK and Australia Did Differently after
Mass Shootings.” CNN, Cable News Network, 6 Dec. 2017,
Oppel, Richard A. “In Florida, an AR-15 Is Easier to Buy Than a Handgun.” The New
York Times, The New York Times, 15 Feb. 2018,
Oremus, Will. “In 1996, Australia Enacted Strict Gun Laws. It Hasn't Had a Mass
Shooting Since.” Slate Magazine, Slate, 2 Oct. 2017,
Patel, Jugal K. “After Sandy Hook, More Than 400 People Have Been Shot in Over 200
School Shootings.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 15 Feb. 2018,
Turkewitz, Julie, et al. “Florida Shooting: Nikolas Cruz Is Charged With 17 Counts of
Murder.”The New York Times, The New York Times, 15 Feb. 2018,
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