Two days later I saw pictures of the children and adults that were murdered in that Texas elementary school on the front page of the news. I finally felt like I was hit with a ton of bricks, and the entire rest of the day went by in a haze. After my partner and I got home from work we talked into the night about how we felt. I’d like to say that I left the conversation feeling better, but I don’t think I did.
In 2018 after the Parkland shooting it really felt like the tide was turning on the issue of federal gun control. The Parkland community is an affluent community, and the students at the school took advantage of the resources at their disposal to organize marches nationwide as part of the “March for our Lives” campaign. My parents, partner, and I traveled to San Francisco and stood in a protest in front of the Civic Center. It was the first protest my parents had ever attended.
We listened to speaker after speaker articulate the need for nationwide gun control. Speakers from communities who had been riddled with gun violence, long before school shootings became so regular, spoke about the need to restrict the supply of these tools meant to kill. They spoke in frustration that their demands had not been met for decades, as it was only poor minorities who had been victims. Maybe now that wealthier communities were starting to feel this same violence there would be something done about it.
A Columbine survivor talked about how she had been unknowingly investing in gun companies as part of her 401k, and urged everybody to make sure that they pull any money they can out of weapon manufacturers hands. Dianne Fienstein, London Breed, and other California politicos came on to say a few words in support.
Thousands came with handmade signs and there was a real energy that something could be done. It felt like the tide was turning.
But nothing has been done at the national level yet. Without federal legislation, gun laws are relegated to those made at the state level. California has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. But within a day's car ride you can find yourself in Nevada, a place with some of the laxest gun laws in the nation.
The truth is, mass shootings do have factors at play other than easy accessibility to guns. Guns, especially automatic weapons, allow a person to kill other human beings with ungodly power and speed. But this doesn’t explain why so many are motivated to take these weapons in their hands to murder innocent people.
A toxic cocktail of the dissolution of communities, mass poverty, economic precarity, and lack of any mental health supports whatsoever have converged to push mentally ill individuals to express intense hate through outbursts of deadly violence. Guns amplify the shape and form of what this deadly violence looks like.
Easy access to guns without common sense background checks gives immense power to those who have come to have no value whatsoever for human life. Background checks for all gun sales are supported by nearly ninety percent of all Americans, including a huge percentage of conservatives.
Tackling the issues mentioned above is incredibly complicated and I’m not sure I have the faith that positive changes will happen soon at this stage in our country. While we begin to grapple with and understand those issues, common sense gun reform that the majority of Americans agree with seems within reach. When we scroll past mass shootings we lose a bit of ourselves, what makes us human. In my lifetime I hope I can see us as a country get in touch with our humanity and pass some gun reform at the national level.