If you had asked me a few years ago where I’d want to live after college, I would tell you Los Angeles without a moment’s hesitation. Leaving my home state, or even my hometown, had never crossed my mind — that is, until now. As I consider more and more the growing insecurity and increasing frequency of mass shootings in our country, I don’t even know that I want to live in America at all.
Having spent Fall Quarter abroad in the United Kingdom, I experienced two major mass shootings — Pittsburgh and Thousand Oaks — from beyond the confines of the American border. Living in a country outside the U.S. has opened my eyes to how truly broken our political system is — one where the right to own a gun clearly trumps the right to live.
Going abroad always raises concerns, mainly of safety. The United Kingdom has seen a meteoric rise in anti-Semitism (as has the U.S.) and has since greatly tightened domestic security amid mounting threats of terrorism. But guess what it doesn’t have? Seemingly daily reports of horrific and preventable mass shootings.
Both the Tree of Life Synagogue and Borderline shootings hit incredibly close to home for me, as they targeted communities with which I consider myself affiliated. The Jewish community of Pittsburgh was targeted when a man opened fire using an AR-15 during a morning service at the Tree of Life Synagogue. Before his rampage, he allegedly shouted, “All Jews must die!” Amongst his victims were family members, a pioneering doctor and a Holocaust survivor. When one manages to escape the horrors of the Holocaust, it is such a cruel irony to die at the hands of an anti-Semite in a country previously viewed as a safe haven.
The Borderline shooting was another instance of a community close to my heart that was rocked by tragedy. While the country was still reeling from the Pittsburgh shooting, news soon broke that an ex-Marine fired into a crowded college night at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California. The man used a legally-obtained Glock with an illegal extended magazine, though the illegality of said magazine is at odds with views typical to gun rights activists.
Trying to explain mass shootings to the friends I made abroad was incredibly frustrating, mostly because I couldn’t completely wrap my head around them myself. In no world does it make any sense for guns to take precedence over any human life. In the UK, the value of a human life over that of a gun is considered common sense. After a mass shooting in 1996, the UK banned several types of guns and strictly controlled background checks. Presently, the rate of gun ownership in the UK is 6.5 guns for every 100 people. The U.S., which has had a mass shooting for practically every day of the year, has a rate of 101 guns for every 100 people.
That being said, I felt at ease while out for the first time in a long time; like I could breathe at the club, at the movies, at school or on public transportation. While living in a big city certainly was unpredictable and unnerving things did happen, I never once worried about what I would do if someone pulled out a gun and started shooting. For the first time, I genuinely considered leaving America after college.
California has taken a very small yet important step forward toward greater gun control by raising the age of purchasing a firearm to 21, but we are far from full reform. As a community rocked by gun violence, it is Isla Vista’s responsibility to remain at the forefront of demanding better gun laws and what comes with it. Vote for representatives who will vote for common sense gun laws. Vote out the NRA’s puppets. And, in the meantime, remember that we have a long way to go before we see change.
I’ll leave you, then, with one quintessentially American takeaway: The right to own a semi-automatic assault weapon is somehow enshrined in the constitution, but you know what isn’t? Healthcare — something you’ll desperately need if you’re lucky enough to survive being shot.
Hannah Jackson thinks that the right to live is exponentially more valuable than the second amendment.
This article was published on pg.1 of the Jan. 17, 2019 edition of the Daily Nexus.