Stop Trying to Make "Gun Safety" Happen, It's Not Going to Happen
By Jillian Kurashima
Reprinted with permission from the author's blog, The Surrounding Hullabaloo.
Columbine rocked our country. I was eight years old when it happened. I don't remember it, but I know everything about it, because it is at the base of every conversation we have about school shootings. Even if we don't know we're talking about it, we are. When we talk about the safety of our schools what we're really talking about is before Columbine and after Columbine. Because it changed everything. It went on for an hour before shooters Klebold and Harris stopped the onslaught by killing themselves. It was yet hours still before anyone knew for sure that they were dead. It was slow and agonizing and outside it was a chaotic, leaderless shitshow. Nothing like the school shootings that came before it. It called on us, as a country, to step up and do something. So we started to train students and teachers how to lock down a classroom, hide away from windows and doors, stay silent. We started to install metal detectors. We brought guns into our schools on the hips of security guards. We started to put actual police officers on school payroll. We created systems to ensure all visitors were monitored, we hung up signs declaring campuses as gun free zones, and we instated zero tolerance policies against weapons and violence. We did and continue to do all of that.
But if we're going to talk about after Columbine, we should talk about how ever since Klebold and Harris shot and killed thirteen people (children), the death tolls have only gotten worse. Parkland, Florida just passed Columbine as the worst high school shooting in US history, with seventeen deaths. As far as mass shootings in general, Columbine is no longer in the top ten worst massacres. And, in 2018 alone, there have already been eight shootings at schools in the United States.* It's only March. A New York Times article called Generation Z, generation mass shooting, because they have never known school without the threat of school shootings. Please, just take a moment to think about the young ones in your life in that context. My little sister has never known school without the threat of school shootings.
So. If Columbine brought it the forefront of everyone's mind. And if Columbine ignited a chain reaction of newly implemented school safety measures AND it's still getting worse—it kind of feels like, maybe, just maybe, this isn't the way we prevent tragedy. Maybe there's another, more effective way to stop mass casualties at schools at the hands fallible human beings with easy access to military style assault rifles. Maybe??? If Republicans are reading this, let me put it in terms you can understand:
(This reference is so old I couldn't even find a gif of it.)
It is asinine if you continue to believe that gun control will not save lives. This is not about good guys with guns vs. bad guys with guns. This is not about stealing or underground criminal enterprises doling out guns to the wrong kids. This is not about the parents or the school system or bullying. This is not even about mental illness. This IS, however, about access to semi-automatic weapons, which, as far as I see it, have only two possible purposes: to take to a shooting range and shoot real fast and powerful for a couple minutes, or to kill people. This IS about the words gun control and what they mean to our children. And this IS about how our government has failed us.
To start, consider the first point, easy access to murder machines. The Parkland shooter bought his gun legally. Yup. So goodbye to those arguments that terrorists and other perpetrators of gun violence have stolen or otherwise obtained their weapons illegally. Yes, some gun related crimes are carried out with stolen weapons. I see that point. Columbine shooters Klebold and Harris supposedly bought their guns not directly, but from friends. However, somewhere down the line, the system that we have in place for ensuring the safety of gun sales in this country has fallen short. If it is that easy for two underage kids to get their hands on enough weapons to carry out a massacre, then that invisible line in the sand we drew at the gun shop counter isn't enough of an impediment.
"What does it say about us that we care less for the lives of our neighbors than for our gun collection?"
Let's take Chicago as an example. Chicago has long been an excuse used by the conservative right against gun control. The argument is that despite tough gun laws the number of deaths by gun violence in Chicago each year is astounding thus further gun control will not solve the problem. But Chicago no longer has the toughest gun laws in the country. The tough law that everyone talks about, the handgun ban, banned residents from keeping handguns in their home. But the NRA didn't like that very much and took it to the Supreme Court, and it was repealed in 2010. Which was eight years ago, so why are we still talking about it? And other laws since have also been overturned. And, what I think is a more important detail to note, a lot of the guns used in crimes in Chicago come from Indiana, actually most of them. Indiana, the Pence state, has some of the most lenient gun laws in the country. A weapon that might need a Police issued license to purchase in Illinois, may be sold as easily as a handgun in Indiana, and just as easily carried across the boarder. Gun trafficking is illegal, definitely, and is certainly not the fault of the average, law-abiding citizen. However, federal laws closing the gun show loopholes and restricting who can purchase weapons and which type of weapons can be purchased would go a long way in preventing mass tragedy, in preventing violence in general. How can we protect our state if violence and death can be carried into it from the next state over? And, what does it say about us that we care less for the lives of our neighbors than for our gun collection?
Since someone is going to come for me about this, here is why this issue is about access to weapons and not about mental illness. Besides the obvious, real consequences that the labeling of violent perps as mentally ill has on stigmatizing the people that actually suffer from mental illness, and the obvious fact that Regular Joe on Facebook is not a health care professional and not qualified to diagnose a complete stranger over the internet, the hard reality is: any person with a gun in their hands is more dangerous than a person without a gun in their hands. It's that goddamn simple.
Go ahead, repeat to me one more time about how someone just should have said something. About how there should have been a counselor who cared in that school, who took Cruz under their wing and fixed him. Because it is so incredibly naive to think that any system in this country which pays teachers next to nothing, which withholds adequate health insurance to provide therapy and treatment for mental illness from much of its population, which actively ignores victims of domestic and sexual assault, which denies the reality of its race problems and the molding of teenage white supremacists, and which continues to supply military style weapons to its citizens, that this system could ever prevent this tragedy with some extra psych evals. Besides, hindsight is really something, isn't it? It makes you forget that everything was done to prevent this. Someone did say something. It was ignored, and he still passed his background check, and he still bought a gun.
Flat out, we need more gun control. And please, STOP TRYING TO MAKE "GUN SAFETY" HAPPEN—IT'S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN! I will not listen to you if you start telling me that you've switched to saying safety instead of control so it's not so scary to the conservatives. No, I don't want gun safety. I want gun control. I don't want to see gun safety measures instated, or new lockdown policies for teachers. We already fucking have those. We added them after Columbine, remember? I want the ability to purchase AR-15s taken away, from all citizens, forever.
Trying to step around the hot button words to avoid bad comments online or to keep the dinner table conversation to polite inside-voices only drags out the issue and makes it harder to push forward lasting change. I will not pussyfoot around card carrying NRA gun fanatics by changing my verbage to make it sound nicer. There is something fundamentally wrong with dampening your convictions for someone so undeniably stubborn that they turn off all of their reasonable neurons at the sound of one little word. "You can't take my guns!" they shout, throwing their hands in the air and scurrying off to their bunker like the actual conspiracy idiots that they are. If someone doesn't get it when I talk about gun control in this context, then fuck them. They are not worth my energy. I will take my force to people who matter, who will think critically and often in order to try and make a difference. Soon, those stubborn idiots will be phased out, and the sooner I can ostracize them from my life, and the lives of my loved ones, the better.
We need real, lasting gun control. My god, just listen to the children, for once. They just don't want to get shot at school. Support the students as they organize walkouts and demonstrations against gun violence.** Call your reps, and if they won't listen, vote them out. You still have that power. Don't let the NRA buy it away from you.
*There are a lot of articles floating around various numbers of school shootings in 2018, with the numbers skewed based on intent, location, etc. This number was taken from a Guardian article which defined the shootings as any that involved injury or death on a school campus. Still though, eight.
**Follow @studentwalkoutUS on twitter for more information.