The American Plague

(via Jen Leslie/ Unsplash)

Trigger warning: mention of mass shootings

I remember being 13 years old and excited to go to the movies. I remember being 14 years old and actively choosing not to attend opening weekends in fear of my life. That year was 2012 and a man shot up a movie theatre during the midnight premiere of the Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado. Twelve people died and 70 other people were injured. Ever since then, I look for every exit and get tense when anyone sits alone. I asked my friend about this, wondering if I was just paranoid, and she told me she always sits in the back of a theatre so she has a better scope of who arrives. To be blunt, this should not be a thing. I should not be petrified to see the newest film, but I am. Everyone is.

The problem has only gotten worse. Since 2012, America has had nine mass shootings. One happened at an elementary school where 20 children died. Another happened at a gay club in Orlando. Two happened in churches. One happened at a concert. They all happened in places considered safe and fun. And, that’s the kicker-- terrorists want to ruin our livelihood. They want us to live, breathe, and eat fear. They want us to flinch at their names because, for them, fear means power. So, I always feel slightly guilty when I question going to church, or to class, or to literally anything with a lot of people because I am giving them what they want. But, on the other hand, that fear could be the difference between life and death. Right now, America has a plague and sheer terror is the vaccine.

My parents have lived through 32 mass shootings. That is a little over half of their life times. Americans have had this conversation 32 different times. Our government has thought about this 32 times. Whenever we think we are in remission, another CNN update pops up on our phones. Then, for a week, “thoughts and prayers” dance about our timelines while Facebook offers the latest in empathetic filters. Two deadly mass shootings have recently occurred within weeks of each other and it seems that the Twitterverse has already hopped off the gun control debate. These massacres happen so often that they remain breaking news, but never seem to be able to change government policy.

Well, I am sick and tired of it. I do not want to live in fear. To every person who says “this is not the time for politics,” I ask “when else would you suggest?” We live in a country that is supposedly for the people. The people are dying. Gun control is now-- even though it should have been in 1949 when the first mass shooting in modern history happened. No one should be afraid to go to class or to hang out with friends because someone with an semiautomatic weapon might decide to visit the local mall.

I do not want to have a relationship with mass shootings. I want this last one to be the last one. I do not want to forget mass shootings. I want the pain of my fellow American citizens to be remembered beyond the obligatory Instagram post. To be honest, when I started writing this I was not sure which direction it would go in -- whether it would be informative or advocacy. If you take anything away from this, contact your representatives. Look up gun control policies. This is not about taking away rights. It is about saving lives. The plague has a cure, we just have to use it.

 

Sources: http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/16/us/20-deadliest-mass-shootings-in-u-s-history-fast-facts/index.html

https://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2017/11/senators-introduce-assault-weapons-ban