Column: A reflection on gun violence in America

Elizabeth Schanz

One of the clearest memories from my childhood is the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012. 

I was in my local library probably getting some young adult book or a movie when I looked up at the television screen and saw the news coverage of the shooting.

The faces of children not that much younger than I was were displayed across the screen. 

I distinctly remember the reporter talking about one of the children who had been murdered. She was a little girl who loved horses. Her parents promised that they would give her a horse on her 10th birthday. 

Now, she would never make it to that 10th birthday. 

I was 10 at the time of the shooting, and I realized that living this age was something she would never do. 

It’s now 2022 and I am standing in my kitchen looking up at the TV seeing the news coverage of the shooting at the elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. 

The faces of children, now much younger than me, are displayed across the screen and I am struck with the same feeling of a heavy heart and knots in my stomach. However this time it is not knotted with fear or sadness, but with anger. 

The story keeps repeating itself and strikes me and the nation as the cycle seems to repeat endlessly. 

In between the occurrences of these two shootings, I experienced the effects of a school shooting first hand in the wake of the Oxford High School shooting in Michigan. 

My hometown would play Oxford in football games, my friends in college graduated from there, and the victims were my sister’s age. 

About a week after the Oxford shooting I woke up to my mom calling me. 

The first thing she said to me was that my sister’s school was on lockdown because of a threat and said my sister had woken up late and wasn’t there. Thankfully nothing happened, but my heart felt heavy knowing that that was not a reality for others just one week beforehand. 

According to the Sandy Hook Promise, 948 school shootings have happened in the United States since the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012. That means thousands of students are affected not just through injury or death, but mentally and emotionally. There are families and friends who will never have their loved ones back because of mass shootings. 

This year Fourth of July celebrations that were meant to highlight American community and freedom were met with shootings. One took place at a parade in Highland Park, Illinois and another at a firework show in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Instead of celebrating living in freedom, lives were lost. In my opinion, though, it’s not difficult to see how we got here. 

We live in an ever-increasing country of gridlock where politicians are more likely to succumb to the will of their lobbyists than the cries from their constituents. 

It seems as though the rhetoric from the media is often centered on “thoughts and prayers” or the past of the perpetrator rather than developing critical conversations in the wake of tragedy. 

Following the shooting in Uvalde, a gun reform activist confronted Texas Senator Ted Cruz in a local Huston restaurant following his attendance at an NRA convention. The person yelled to Cruz, “You can make it harder for people to get guns in this country.” 

In the midst of people speaking up, petitioning and protesting to see gun reform take shape there are clashes with current legislation and lack of policy from politicians that reflect constituents’ ideas of what safe gun practices could look like in the United States. 

According to an article by Forbes, the share of voters in support of stricter gun control laws has reached a new high, with more than two-thirds of Americans backing them.

Currently, Texas has some of the least strict gun laws in the country for both obtaining and carrying firearms. In Texas, individuals can carry some guns, handguns, rifles and shotguns without going through training or getting a permit. 

The problem is not just access to any guns, but rather the capability of the particular weapons that are available. Across the nation there is no legislation against high capacity magazines which have the power to shoot 14 times more people than guns without this capacity. 

I grew up in a hunting family and was taught comprehensive gun safety. All firearms were properly stored within the home. The United States is now seeing how these practices are not commonplace in many homes and lead to tragedies. 

In the case of the shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan, the gun used was supposed to be a gift to the perpetrator and was kept unlocked in the home, a contributing factor to the tragedy. 

Other countries have worked harder to make gun ownership safe and reduce gun violence.

Some examples can be found in Germany and Britain where there are requirements for proper firearm storage and potential check-ins in order to ensure that these protocols are in place. 

There are also additional gun regulations pertaining to what guns can be purchased. According to the Washington Post Canada has initiated gun reform by banning semi-automatic rifles such as the AK-15 style that was used in the Uvalde shooting. 

The number of school shootings in these countries seem to reflect these additional precautions. 

According to the World Population Review the United States has experienced 288 school shootings in 2022 alone. Contrastingly, Germany had one and Canada had two. 

It seems in the U.S. that we deflect the issue and refuse to change. If our country does not develop these attempts to guard our livelihoods we could end up living in a continual state of fear, surrounded by this violence. 

By implementing written laws the United States may have a chance of ensuring a right to life as much as the 2nd amendment ensures the right to bear arms.