This is all too familiar. The shock. The sorrow. The endless newspaper headlines. The outrage. The undeserved fame of the perpetrator. The posts on social media that use this heartbreak to fight for — or against — something. The memorials. The faces of lives cut short unjustly immortalized on our television sets, at least, that is, until they become interchangeable with the faces of the victims of our nation’s next great tragedy. Despite their grim implications, these elements are not foreign to me. Since 1993, the year I was born, 127 fatal school shootings have occurred in the United States. I am no stranger to violence at this point.
But this time, it’s completely different. I heard those gunshots as they were fired behind my house and the cries of pain that followed close behind. This is my shock, my sorrow. My home being infiltrated by unapologetic news trucks and over-eager reporters. My community being scrutinized daily in the pages of every national newspaper. My heartbreak being sensationalized on TV screens around the world to the point that I cannot walk into a room with the television on without feeling physically sick. My outrage. The fame and glorification of the demented individual responsible for the physical and psychological damage of my entire school, of my entire town. People fighting via social media over the politics and morality of my own traumatizing experience. My memorial in my school’s stadium. My friends weeping beside me as the victims’ families speak of the children they’ve lost. The faces of the people whose last screams will haunt me indefinitely, displayed on every television set and every website. Faces of my classmates, of members of my community, of people my friends knew and loved, of people who could have just as easily been me. It all seems so familiar, until it happens to you, and you realize that it’s completely different.
This is not normal. 137 fatal school shootings in the past 34 years is not normal. For parents to outlive their children is not normal. There is a problem here and quite frankly, I am more than frustrated, more than pained. I am downright insulted. Why does no one seem to care? Why is this still going on? Why are our leaders so concerned about fighting wars in countries on the other side of the world while they have yet to address that there is a war going on inside our very borders amongst our own people?
Civilian gun violence needs to be addressed on a much more serious level. We can no longer ignore the fact that U.S. citizens’ legal access to killing machines has caused us to become the country responsible for the most murders of its own citizens.
I am not going to list off political points defending this because I do not believe that there is any logical, humane argument that exists that can discredit this statement. My only point I wish to make is that I have witnessed on a very personal level just one instance of the effects of our nation’s loose gun control policies. Just one instance — one shooter — that has destroyed the lives of tens of thousands of people. One of 137.
I am deeply saddened, but I am also absolutely enraged. How many instances is it going to take? How many more personal accounts like this one are going to have to be heard? How many more tens of thousands of lives are going to have to be destroyed? How many more people will have to die for something to change?
I wouldn’t wish this kind of trauma on even my worst enemies, and I genuinely hope that not one more person has to experience what my community, and all other 137 communities that have been shaken by similar tragedies, have gone through.
In honor of Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez, Veronika Weiss, Katherine Cooper, James Hong, George Chen and David Wang, I ask you to reconsider the world of fear and violence we currently inhabit, where my tragedy is just another familiar story, versus the world we want to inhabit — the world we want our children and grandchildren to inhabit. We are responsible for creating this world.
Not one more life stolen, not one more memorial, not one more student, classmate, friend, sibling, boyfriend, girlfriend or child. This is my country, my home, and I refuse to feel unsafe here any longer.
Margaux Gundzik is a second-year communications major.