With 307 Mass Shootings This Year, Thoughts and Prayers Just Aren't Enough

This article contains possibly triggering discussions of gun violence. It represents the author's opinions and is not intended to represent the overarching views of Her Campus Media or Her Campus SMU.

 

“I love u all a lot.”

 

This was the message I received.

 

Not as a friendly expression of care, or as a daily reminder. I received this message from my best friend, who attends college 1,200 miles away from me, when she was alerted that there was a possible active shooter on her campus.

 

It was a Friday night, one that I had originally planned to go out on, but had decided against because I felt like I was catching a cold. I was sitting in my dorm room, watching one of those guilty pleasure Netflix original Christmas movies, when my best friend of six years texted me and another friend to tell us of her situation. An audible, “no,” escaped from lips, soon followed by jagged breaths that were already shaky from my oncoming cold. My other friend and I immediately responded, asking questions of where she was and if she was okay. Each second in between responses was agonizing, filled with my brain going rampant with heart wrenching thoughts and pleas to God for protection.

 

After a sobbing phone call to my parents, with them in contact with my friend’s mom, and me still texting in the group chat, we discovered the threat was apparently false, and the product of an ignorant and cruel joke. When I called my mom, I remember thinking that the second she heard my tears she would go into panic mode, in turn making my father also unnerved. I prefaced the phone call by saying the name of my friend’s campus before even mentioning a shooter.  I got this luxury. I was able to tell my mom that I was safe. The students at my friend’s school, and the victims of so many other countless shootings didn’t get to put this preface out when they called their loved ones. They scared their mothers by uttering out loud her worst fear – the danger of her child.

 

For me and my friends, we escaped. My friend is still here. I was able to have a barely comprehensible phone call with her afterwards; I was able to hear her voice through our collective sobs. Not everyone can say the same.

 

The families of the victims of the Thousand Oaks shooting just last week can’t say the same. Neither can those from the Route 81 Harvest Music Festival, or from Pulse nightclub, Sandy Hook Elementary School, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, Virginia Tech, the Sutherland Springs Church in Texas…

 

USA Today reported that the Thousand Oaks shooting marks the 307th mass shooting in America… this year… on day 311 of 365. 307 instances where someone decided to go out with the intent to wreak havoc, and destroy the lives of countless others. 307 instances where someone believed they had the right to decide the lifespan of another living, breathing, human being. 307 instances where we as a nation failed to recognize the sick minds of these perpetrators and made it feasible for them to possess a weapon that can obliterate someone’s world in seconds. 307 instances that should not have happened.

 

We “protect” the health of our lungs with laws against consumption of marijuana. We “protect” the health of women by trying to outlaw abortions and be rid of Planned Parenthoods. We “protect” the morality of children by not allowing them to be adopted into LGBT families. As a nation we have “protections” for things or materials, or “protections” to put up fronts of being a healthy, moral, and conservative nation, but how are we supposed to be a nation that represents anything if the people of our nation don’t even live long enough to embody a sense of patriotism? Where are the laws that protect the children of America from being shot up at school? We need to protect our people. Period. Whether these people are children, whether they are Hispanic, White, Black, Transgender, a Veteran, someone with a mental illness, a deformity, a disability. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, recognized by 48 countries, including our own, clearly spells out the intent for, “… the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear” proclaiming this to be, “the highest aspiration for the common people.” We have not lived up to this. We are a nation that is constantly living in fear. Fear of being able to have access to necessary care, fear of interactions with law enforcement, and fear of entering any establishment and knowing there is a possibility someone may walk through those doors and put an end to it all.

 

There is no reason that when I was on the phone with my mom, she felt the need to tell me where she thought was the best place for my roommate and I to hide in our dorm room in case of an attack. There is no reason my father should feel like he needs to tell me to make sure to call him if I’m walking back across campus alone at night. There is no reason I should be able to type the world “mass” into Google, and have all of the suggested searches deal with mass shootings in America. There is no reason that I should feel the need to even have to write this article. It is time to wake up. Time to give help where help is needed. Time to care for our people first, and worry about image later.

 

Despite my decision to major in Journalism, I have never been a particularly political person, and have often removed myself from any conversation that dwelt too long on politics. This message was my wake up call. I never want to receive another “I love you,” message if it isn’t just to truly say “I love you.” I never want to have to scour Twitter feeds and Facebook timelines to catch glimpses of updates about my loved ones. I never want to have to call my parents again, living 1,200 miles away from my school, and freak them out with my sense of helplessness and pain over a situation like this.

 

Get educated. Find your voice. Find your purpose. Don’t stay silent. Help be the change.

 

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