Saturday, February 24, 2018

Trinity students explore the issue of gun violence

JOECELYN REDDING ’16

HUNTER DREWS ’16

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS

According to the journal Pediatrics, every year in America 7,000 children are brought into the ER with injuries from firearms, and an additional 3,000 die before they even make it to the hospital. These devastating incidents occur as a result of anything from suicides and accidental shootings to domestic altercations and full-blown massacres. The single common factor amongst each of these tragedies is the presence of firearms. Over the last century, there has been a growing interest in the United States surrounding the future of American youth, yet the lack of firearm control does not encourage the idea that children will ever achieve these futures. Since 1990, there have been over 200 shootings in schools alone. We may live in a free, first world country, but gun violence is not foreign to our generation.  As young adults, it is our time to propose a change to protect our cohorts and ourselves.

Programs like No Child Left Behind and Lets Move! have provided children with the opportunities for an adequate education and healthy lifestyles, but can do nothing for the thousands of children and young adults who have been personally affected by gun violence. While the issue of school shootings and accidental deaths from firearms has been exceedingly prevalent in the news over the years, it seems as though these incidents have started to become common occurrences rather than infrequent tragedies. With that said, it is clear that this issue is in need of greater attention from the current generation of young adults who are being affected as they come of age to contribute to a society that is failing to protect their futures.

In order to raise awareness about the abundance of gun violence tragedies, we presented information about the issue outside of Mather Hall last week. Through an informative poster board, a pamphlet, and a map of school shootings that have occurred over the last two decades, we were able to grasp the attention and spark intellectual conversations about the issue with our peers. Although some students initially thought we were advocating for the removal of guns from society altogether, we explained that our position towards gun control was purely about safety, not about infringing upon our 2nd Amendment right to bear arms. We do believe that legislation regarding registration, training, and mandatory background checks are necessary regulations that need to be implemented by the federal government, but we also recognize that this has become a heated political topic. Therefore, our intention was to step away from the argument regarding one’s right to own and use firearms and focus on the fact that, regardless of political beliefs, children’s safety is the most important aspect of this issue.

While tabling outside Mather, we had a memorable conversation with a student who was initially defensive about his personal use of firearms as he thought we were standing as anti-gun activists. After discussing our position, however, he realized that safety and gun rights can, in fact, be two separate issues and that any regulations we supported would have no effect on the ways he currently uses his firearms. Through this conversation, we realized that people are unfamiliar with addressing this issue from a safety perspective and, more than anything, need to be informed about how pervasive the effects of gun violence have become while we have been caught up in the debate over our Second Amendment rights.

So what was our intention in talking with our peers about this issue? If there are so many regulations that need to be implemented to take control of this problem, why wouldn’t we try to contribute to the policy-making process?

A popular belief is that young voters do not take advantage of their right to vote because they simply don’t care; however, we believe the shortage of young voters is instead due to the lack of information about current issues as well as the feeling that our voices will not make a difference. With that said, the first step towards encouraging young voters to play a role in the decision-making process of this country is to inform them of issues that are both relevant and harmful to their generation. By creating this awareness of important issues, we will come one step closer to enforcing necessary regulations at a federal level.

Just three weeks ago, four high school students were fatally shot and three were injured at Marysville Pilchuck High School when a fellow student ambushed the victims as they ate lunch in the school cafeteria. Not only was this a tragic day for the Marysville community, but it was only one of the 88 school shootings that have occurred since the Newtown massacre in December of 2012. There are many speculations as to why these tragedies have occurred, such as the lack of mental health interventions for adolescents or unregulated access to firearms, yet the level of outrage dwindles as these events become more and more frequent. Shouldn’t we, both as a nation and the targeted generation, be more concerned? These tragedies have affected students of all ages, from suburbs to cities, all across the United States. If it can happen “out there”, it can happen here. It can happen to your siblings, to your friends, to your friends’ siblings, and if we don’t start feeling personally affected by each and every one of these preventable tragedies, it could happen to our children someday, too. Instead of feeling a sense of temporary sympathy for these victims and then moving on with our lives, we need to start demanding that the safety of our generation become a national priority. The Bill of Rights was created by determined, passionate people who wanted to see a change in their society, and the youth of our country, as victims of these terrible events, need to have the passion to do the same. The only way we can expect to see a change in this appalling trend of innocent deaths and allow our nation’s youth to achieve the bright futures that are awaiting them, is to become better informed, speak up, and make our voices heard.

Note: The authors of this article have prepared a brief survey to assess their effectiveness in educating the Trinity student body about gun violence. If you are Trinity student, please go to this link and answer the authors’ survey questions. The link is as follows: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/S28YM67.

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