On April 20, 1999, 13 people were killed at Columbine High School.
On April 16, 2007, 32 people were killed at Virginia Tech University.
On July 20, 2012, 12 people were killed in an Aurora, CO movie theater.
On December 14, 2012, 26 people, 20 of them children, were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
This is just a short list of the mass tragedies I can distinctly remember in my 28 years on this earth. And whenever one occurs it always hits close to home, not because I have any direct tie to any of the individuals whose lives were cut short by these particular tragedies but because on May 25, 1994 a girl named Lauren Shrout, then 12 years old, her sister, and both her parents were killed by her then 17 year old brother with his father’s .380 caliber pistol. You see, Lauren was a teammate of mine. She was two years older than me, and therefore we weren’t particularly close friends but we practiced every single day together in the same gym. And so now, whenever a young, mentally disturbed male (which they most often are) decides to take the lives of the innocent people around him with a gun, he or his parents legally purchased, I’m taken back to my 9 year old self, to those same feelings of disbelief and confusion I felt 18 years ago.
It goes without saying that what happened last Friday was a complete and utter tragedy. The lives of 20 children and 6 adults were cut far too short by a man who was mentally ill and had ready access to deadly weapons. I know that many believe that the coming weeks should be reserved for the grieving process but I believe that now, when these feelings of shock, anger, and sadness are most ripe in our minds is the exact time for us to stand up and demand changes. We can’t simply sit by, cross our fingers, and hope that another tragedy like Sandy Hook, Columbine, or Virginia Tech won’t happen again. Because if history has taught us anything, it’s that a lack of action and a refusal to change, sets us up for similar, tragic results. And next time it might be my city and my family that is left to pick of the pieces.
I won’t lie and claim that I know everything there is to know about gun regulations and mental health awareness in this country, but what I do know is that I don’t want to be afraid to go to the movie theater, I don’t want to worry about sending my future children to school, I don’t want to live in fear that I’ll receive the call that is every parent’s worst nightmare.
Above is a picture of the type of gun that was used at Sandy Hook Elementary. It is a semi-automatic rifle that was first built for use by the U.S. armed forces. ”The AR-15 is an excellent weapon for killing as it fires quickly and can be equipped with a large capacity magazine.” (source) I did a quick Google search and these particular guns are available for order all over the internet. All I’d have to do is hand over my money and they’d ship it to the nearest gun dealer. That’s scary as fuck to me (pardon the language).
And while on one hand we have a gun problem, on the other we have a nation who refuses to acknowledge or take any responsibility for the mentally ill. Here’s a post written by the mother of a mentally ill son. We would rather turn our heads and pretend children and young adults such as her son don’t exist rather than reach out and do everything within our power to get them the help they need. Mental illness has developed such a negative stigma in the United States that for a young person to admit they’re struggling requires a sometimes insurmountable amount of courage.
It’s time that we take a stand and make our voices heard. Sign this petition on gun control, write to your state senator or local representative (find them here and here), donate to a mental health awareness campaign such as Active Minds, educate yourself on mental illness, let people know that you’re tired of standing by waiting for the next tragedy to strike. Because as we know all too well, none of us are immune to this horror and the next tragedy could happen right in our own backyards.