The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting happened just before winter break during my senior year of high school. We had moments of silence for the victims, held fundraisers for the families affected, really mourned the loss. Newtown, Connecticut is only three hours from my own home town, and the proximity seemed to enhance the absolute tragedy of 20 dead children.
When we came back from winter break in early January, my high school had instituted new security measures. Visitors could no longer enter the building during school hours. All side doors would be locked so no one could enter from them, including students. From my first period English room we could see students outside, already late to class, trying to force the side doors open every morning before sprinting around to the front.
My high school has never had an attack on its campus. The most dangerous events in its history are a strange man wandering around the football field and a girl having a seizure in the middle of the hallway, both of which sent the school into lockdown. Neither resulted in any serious threat or injury, and certainly not any death.
So, why would my incredibly safe, suburban high school implement new security measures that have since served solely to irritate past and present students? In response to a shooting that, while in our small northeastern corner of the country, did not put us at risk?
Threat prevention. My school did what our government refuses to do: it assessed the situation and realized life could be safer for the population if additional rules were added, even if those rules annoyed some people.
Last Sunday, 50 people were killed and 53 more injured by a single shooter in a gay club in Orlando. It overtook the Virginia Tech shooting as the deadliest single-shooter attack in United States history.
This year alone has seen 133 mass shootings and counting in the US, with over 200 people dead. Tracking back to the Sandy Hook shooting, both numbers skyrocket, with shootings at schools, universities, churches, clubs, clinics, and everywhere in between. It seems like every week the news is reporting some shooting or another, with a consistent level of remorse in each report. These events should be feeling more devastating the more we see, but we keep calling them out of our control and slogging forward.
My old high school, four years later, remains more progressive than the US government has been. Since 20 children were slaughtered at school in late 2012, the conversation on gun regulation has grown stale and weary. Senators and representatives from every state tweet out their thoughts and prayers for victims with one hand, their right to own a firearm clenched tightly in the other, safety off.
The Second Amendment should not be a used as a shield during this important discussion on gun control. When the Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791, there was no indication of the technological advancements coming for weaponry in the 19th and 20th centuries. The founding fathers wrote the Second Amendment with their own guns in mind. An AR-15 is a far cry from a musket that required single-round barrel loading, had all the accuracy of a paper airplane, and was unreliable at best. It’s hard to believe that, if confronted with modern guns, our fathers would leave the amendment as is.
But the major argument for keeping gun laws the same, it seems to me, is that people feel safer with a gun. They could fend off a potential unhinged shooter before mass murder takes place by fighting fire with fire. So let’s unpack that.
Imagine yourself in Times Square. In front of you stands a man with an assault rifle, pointed at you. He’s about to shoot up all of Times Square, kill as many people as he possibly can.
But you always carry a gun in your purse. Let’s say you always keep it loaded too, because what’s the point in carrying a gun if you have to load it. So, civilian, show us what you’ve got. You dig through that purse, nerves at an all-time high because there’s a gun in your face, whip out your handgun, flick off the safety, point, fire. Can you do it before this shooter pulls his trigger finger back an inch and lodges a bullet in your skull?
Every gun owner wants to believe that, in a situation where they come up against someone with a gun, they could overcome. But duels don’t exist anymore, and that’s the only time a gun fight is ever fair. With the element of surprise against you, you lose. Carrying a gun doesn’t get you anywhere if someone else with a gun gets the drop on you, and you just aren’t going to get a shot off before they are. Period.
Fighting fire with fire is never a good idea, and it feels like we should know that by now. In America, guns aren’t going to just go away, but we could be smarter about them. Changing the laws to increase background checks, institute mental health exams, and remove assault and semi-automatic weapons from the general public, wouldn’t be hard. Like my high school, we could be keeping the population safer. But we’ll never get there if we give our condolences for all the gun violence victims and espouse our freedom to wave our guns around in the air in the same breath.