Never Again

Esme Hodari, Writer

After a shooter killed 16 people in the United Kingdom in 1987, the government outlawed semiautomatic rifles. After a school shooting in 1996, it did the same with most handguns. It now has one of the lowest rates of gun-related deaths among wealthy countries. A 1996 massacre in Australia triggered mandatory gun buybacks that reduced an estimated one million weapons into slag. In the 26 years since, mass shootings have dropped from once every 18 months to merely one. Following a horrific shooting in 1989, Canada tightened its gun rules. Germany followed suit in 2002, alongside New Zealand in 2019 and Norway last year.

If so many countries can reform policies to save lives, how come, in 2020, gun violence was the leading cause of death for children and adolescents in the United States?

In the span of 1 hour and 17 minutes, on the 24th of May 2022, 21 innocent lives were taken by 18-year-old Salvador Ramos. The gunman opened fire at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, a small town just north of the Mexican border, resulting in the deadliest school shooting since the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in December of 2012.

Like many others, the latest in a string of mass shootings shook me to my very core. I am saddened by the knowledge that nineteen children have been robbed of the right to grow up, and two women the right to live out the rest of their lives. I am angered that, in my short life, there have been 338 school shootings in the United States. 316 people have died in a place meant solely for education and growth. I am terrified that someone I love is next in line. Most of all, I am appalled at the lack of action being taken to prevent further tragedies.

The second amendment of the United States Constitution reads, “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” This amendment has been largely incessant due to the work of deep-pocketed pro-gun administrations, in particular the National Rifle Association (NRA), who have prevented the passing of any major gun-control bills in Congress since 2012. Furthermore, while the NRA has condemned the Uvalde shooting, naming it a “horrific and evil crime”, further stating that the association would “redouble our [their] commitment to making our schools secure”, they continue to refuse to reschedule or cancel its annual event, which is hosted a mere 4 hours from the devastated town. This blatant act of disregard inherently demonstrates the imbalance of the rights of people of colour as compared to the rights of white men to bear weaponry.

In an effort to redirect the blame, the gun lobby routinely exploits a series of lore designed to undermine legitimate arguments for common sense gun reform in the aftermath of high-profile mass shootings. One particularly popular myth takes form in the scapegoating of mental health as the leading cause of mass shootings, in part intended to increase gun ownership and decrease the industry’s own accountability. This rhetoric exploits fear and perpetuates misinformation to the point that it is ingrained in the public’s minds as fact, which can result in reactionary measures that do little to prevent gun violence and much to reduce the number of people seeking help for mental afflictions.

Another repeated narrative is that potential gun laws violate the freedom guaranteed under the aforementioned Second Amendment. In 2008, the supreme court explicitly declared the
second amendment does not, in fact, grant people the unlimited right to own and use weapons in the United States. However, as the court’s decisions become increasingly conservative and the push to redefine the amendment proceeds, this may become American citizens’ new realities; with concealed weapons in public not requiring permits and commonsense policies such as extreme risk protection orders, safe storage, and background checks being excluded from the constitutional convention. This amendment to the constitution is largely due to the over 10 million dollars spent by the NRA on right-wing politicians campaigns since the 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting, in which 27 innocent people died.

The experience of children and teens’ staggeringly high gun-related deaths and injuries is an almost uniquely American issue, and yet the people enacting the most change within the government is children and teens themselves. Non-government Organisation Never Again (founded by X Gonzalez, a survivor of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre) are at the forefront of change, trying to restore gun laws in an effort to reduce the availability of automatic weapons without mental health, background, and drug screening. We, as children, should not be having to fight for our right to live, however, as long as prominent politicians are in the pocket of the NRA, we cannot change anything.