The Gun Sense Debate

By: Anne Greene

On April 20th, 1999 in Columbine Colorado, two boys committed a mass shooting that was one of the first of its kind. Fifteen were killed including both perpetrators. Many students currently attending Pin Oak were the same age as those who died at Sandy Hook on December 14, 2012. On February 14th, 2018 seventeen students were killed in Parkland Florida, and now not even two months later, youth across America have organized huge protests in many major cities.

School shootings aren’t necessarily a new phenomena but information travels faster than ever before, and the news is at our fingertips; and now with the internet the news never stops. People across the country and the earth can know almost instantaneously as shots are fired in schools, in a way that was unprecedented just twenty years ago.

The LA Times states that “at least 59% of the 185 public mass shootings that took place in the United States from 1900 through 2017 were carried out by people who had either been diagnosed with a mental disorder or demonstrated signs of serious mental illness prior to the attack.” According to the  Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence around 46 children aged 0-19 are shot everyday. In one calendar year 958 children and teens die from suicide.

After nearly 20 years of school shootings, there hasn’t been a change in gun laws. After the attack at Parkland, students nationwide decided to organize the “March for Our Lives” which was a huge march in protest of gun violence and advocating for gun sense nationwide. This is one of the biggest efforts America has seen for gun control, and certainly one of the biggest examples of teen activism. Many speeches and recounts were given at the march, including a 5th grader from Houston stating that when they had their lock down drills he made sure to stand in front of his classmates so he could protect them in case there was an active shooter.

Many teens who are interested in joining either side aren’t sure how to get involved because often times the main online presence for protest events is found on Facebook, a notedly outdated social media platform that most members of Generation Z aren’t using. Everytown.com, a website advocating for gun sense, encourages those who want to take a stand against gun violence to donate to Moms Demand Action or Everytown.

On the GunSenseVoter.org website, it is stated that “gun sense is acknowledging that there are common-sense solutions to gun violence, which claims 35,000 American lives every year and injures many more. If you believe dangerous people shouldn’t have access to guns, you’ve got gun sense. And if you’re one of the majority of Americans who support policies that can help save lives from gun violence, you’re a Gun Sense Voter.”

The NRA (National Rifel Association) is an organization who states that they are a “major political force and as America’s foremost defender of Second Amendment rights,” and that “the NRA has, since its inception, been the premier firearms education organization in the world.” For those interested in this side, the NRA website is a good place to start.

Many don’t know exactly what the NRA supports and doesn’t support. According to their website, they do not support universal background checks because they fear this will lead to the introduction of a national gun registry. They do not support the ban of semi-automatic weapons such as the AR-15s. They also tout the motto “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.” In reaction to the March for Our Lives protest, NRA spokesperson and Houston-born Collins Iyare Idehen Jr. said, “From where I’m standing, it looks like a march to burn the Constitution and rewrite the parts that they don’t like in crayon,” referencing the young activists leading the march. The NRA also tweeted “I’ll control my own guns, thank you. #2A #NRA,” in response to the March 14th walkout.

As elections for governor and senators of Texas get closer, much attention has been paid to their stances on the issue. According to Texas Monthly, both of Texas’ current senators are supporter of and receive money from the NRA. John Cornyn received $71,995, and Ted Cruz received $77,450. However a new Democrat Beto O’Rourke from El Paso, who is an advocate for Gun Sense, is running against Ted Cruz and hopes to win his place in the senate this November. “Campaigning in a grassroots fashion while raising more than $6.7 million from 141,000 contributions, we are the story of a campaign powered by people who are standing up to special interests, proving that we are more than a match and making it clear that Texans are willing to do exactly what our state and country need of us at this critical time,” stated O’Rourke. His campaign has not accepted any special interests donations.

As the gun control battle rages on, it’s important for all of us to further our understanding and inform ourselves to understand the evolving political world and its implications for our futures.