Illustration by Lilah Faye
Multimedia By River Hennick
As I came to terms with my baby brother starting his first day of kindergarten, I accepted the high probability of tears. But when they came, they weren’t sentimental or nostalgic.
They were angry tears.
Behind my little brother posing for a picture in front of his new school stood the flagpole at half staff. As the country mourned the loss of nine innocent lives in Dayton, Ohio, I was now fearing for my brother’s on what should’ve been a joyous occasion for him.
For students in the Shawnee Mission School District, August means school supply shopping, ice cream socials and final days at the pool. But for people across the country, the risk of gun violence is higher than ever. Back-to-back-to-back shootings struck the U.S. in Kansas City, Dayton and El Paso, all on the first weekend of August.
93 Americans died in mass shootings in August alone this year — almost double the stars on that half staff flag. We can do better. But will our own government let us?
Common sense bills meant to lower gun violence deaths have been kept from a vote in the Senate since March. Our government is failing its most integral role: to protect us — and our little brothers.
Yes, the Trump administration issued a ban on bump-stock modifications for guns, the devices used in the Las Vegas shooting that allowed for machine gun-like fire and death toll of 58. And the House passed two bills in February that would extend the background check period for gun purchases to ten days and require background checks on all private sales.
But both of these bills passed across party lines in a Democratic majority House — meaning most Democrats voted for it and most Republicans against. The Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2019 only passed 228 to 198.
So, if the Senate ever stops tabling these bills and puts them to a vote, they’ll have a tough time making it past the Republican majority.
But this isn’t a blue or red issue. When it comes down to innocent lives being lost, it’s a matter of humanity, not political party.
There’s a cycle to these tragedies now. A mass shooting occurs. POTUS tweets his condolences to the victims of the attack. Flags are lowered to half staff. Democrats reiterate their position on stricter gun control laws and condemn the senseless act of violence. And Republicans fire back at them for politicizing tragedy.
But how else should the public react when, as of Sept. 9, there had been more mass shootings than days in the year? Protest is needed, petitions are indispensable and calls to your Senator help — but gun control legislation is the only direct form of change.
Lawmakers owe it to Americans to put top donors’ influence aside and pass laws that will protect us. And I’m not the only one that feels this way. According to a BBC survey, more Americans are dissatisfied with US gun laws than satisfied — 46% say they need to be stricter, while 39% say current laws are satisfactory and 8% want more lenient laws.
I remember when my perception of school became tainted with the fear of a gunman walking through our front doors. I was playing four square with my friends in fifth grade when someone brought up the front page story in the newspaper that morning — a gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary.
After that we had a meeting as a class to ask our teacher questions and practice hiding in the corner with the lights off. Later, our school would be remodeled to be more in line with safety precautions in the event of a shooting. Now, when I’m huddled shoulder to shoulder during a drill in high school and an officer comes by to yank on our door, I think about my baby brother being introduced to the same regimented drill that’s become second nature to America’s youth.
I hope if these gun control bills ever come to vote in the senate, those elected officials think twice before shooting down a bill that supposedly violates their second amendment right — when in reality, they’re just reforming who has access to guns.
I hope they value my brother’s right to life more than their guns.