No Amendment is Greater than the Right to Live

(Connor Gorry / The Triton)

Mass shootings have become a staple of American life.  Coming up on 19 years of life, I have observed countless mass shootings, many of which happened in schools. I have had to participate in lock-down drills, and have prepared for the worst while being in a place that is supposed to offer me safety and education.

After the death of 27 elementary school children in the Sandy Hook tragedy, many Americans felt a sense of urgency to stop the cycle. Many thought that the sacrifice of the lives of innocent children would be a catalyst for change, but yet again the pleas for stricter gun laws were ignored. America is stuck in an endless cycle: A tragedy occurs, the nation is stuck with grief, and people forget. Our government fails to do anything, and that is what keeps the cycle going.

There is a problem with America’s gun laws. This is not a matter of opinion anymore.

Most weapons used in mass shootings are legally obtained. While I do understand the importance of the Second Amendment, I do not understand how the right to bear arms has become more important than the right to live. Legislative progress for safer gun laws has been hindered by politicians that receive funding from the National Rifle Association (NRA). Politicians no longer represent their people, but instead they represent the large corporations that fund them.

A study done by National Bureau of Economic Research found that carrying a gun does not make a state safer, but instead increases the possibility of violent crimes. The study compares states who have enabled open carry laws to their previous state and the study found that violent crimes increased by 15 percent after these states passed legislation to create open carry laws, many citizens defend their right to own deadly weapons by stating that guns make their house and neighborhood safer, but this study and many others prove this reasoning wrong. The abhorrent nature of this issue is further elevated when considering Congress’ aversion to resolving an issue that is statistically black and white.

Americans no longer feel safe at school, concerts, nightclubs, or even church. Hundreds of parents have raised their children into mature young adults, only to watch them get gunned down. Minorities are targeted in churches or nightclubs, places of sanctuary. Comparing legislators’ inaction when it comes to gun laws to their action when it comes to terrorism makes the role of lobbyists glaringly obvious. There has only been one shoe bomber in an airport, and now everyone must take off their shoes when going through security, but after hundreds of shootings killing innocent people, nothing has been done about guns. America’s politicians do not care about American lives. While they are busy changing the public’s perceptions of foreign people through fear-mongering and threats, American people are dying at the hands of other Americans, and nothing is being done about it.

Americans do not feel safe anymore.

Every day as I go about my day on campus I am paranoid that someone will just come up to me and shoot me. I am afraid that my mom will be shopping and get shot. I am afraid that the next phone call I receive will be news that a loved one has been killed by a gunman. And these fears have sadly become a part of the American life.

Moreover, people who do not fit the bill as many people’s idea of “a true American” maintain an even greater fear, not just from civilians, but from law enforcement whose job is to protect the people, not gun them down. Black men ranging from ages 15–34 are nine times more likely to be shot, and this is by policemen, the same people who are sworn to serve and protect us. Latinos are also unproportionally targeted, comprising 16 percent of police-involved shootings.

Something needs to change. The students from Stoneman Douglas, who were just victims of a mass shooting in a Florida high school, are stepping up and giving a voice to the people, but sadly, Washington has disconnected so much from the people they have sworn to represent that they shoot down every plea.

The high school students from Stoneman Douglas organized a peaceful protest, the March For Our Lives, on March 14 at 10:00 a.m. in Washington D.C. Protests with a similar message to enforce stricter gun laws have been adopted by many cities throughout the nation. Locally, UC San Diego students conducted a peaceful walkout at the same date and time in front of Geisel Library at the Silent Tree, which has previously hosted other peaceful protests. The protest was a great success with students all over the nation participating.

It is important to note that black and minority teens have been rallying against gun violence for years now, but their efforts are usually ignored and classified as radical movements. Though it is amazing to see the national attention the Stoneman Douglas students are receiving, it is important to remember that there have already been groups rallying against gun violence but their efforts have been mostly ignored.

It is up to us, the youth, to make sure that these unworthy representatives never hold office again. All this pleading for change is absolutely useless without one thing—our votes. Check your representatives’ track records. Vote in local elections in addition to national elections. We are not asking for all guns to be completely banned, but we are asking to ban military grade weapons that are capable of killing 17 people in less than 30 minutes. The average American does not need access to semi-automatic weapons, nor a bump stock that increases the kill power of an already deadly weapon. What the American people need is an increase in background checks, an increase in mental health checks, and a decrease in deadly weapons circulating our neighborhoods.

While change may happen slowly, it is still change. Through our votes, our country can become greater than what it is today. It is up to us to ensure that innocent lives are not taken in the name of the Second Amendment. It is up to us to catalyze the change we need.

Helen Castellon is a Staff Writer for the Arts & Culture section for The Triton.