By Cameron Gonzales
Today is National Gun Violence Awareness Day. This day is painful for many. Those that have lost loved ones in senseless gun violence, and those that have been raised in the reality of everyday gun violence. This year alone, 6,088 people have been killed by guns, averaging to more than 38 preventable deaths per day in this year alone. Just one week ago, an active shooter killed twelve people, with the shooter himself killed only after a shoot-out with several police officers, in which one was only saved by his bulletproof vest. Less than a month ago, Kendrick Castillo, a senior set to graduate in only a few weeks, was shot and killed while trying to shield his fellow classmates from an active shooter. He is a hero who shouldn’t have had to be one.
Time and time again, America acts as if this violence is not preventable. After shootings we witness messages of “thoughts and prayers” instead of action and legislation. With such regular school shootings occurring, youth regularly bear the brunt of gun violence, and are subject to the reality when school comes around and active shooter drills are done again and again in the hopes of preparing us for unspeakable violence. We introduce children to the idea that at any moment, someone they know may walk into their classroom and gun down their peers before their eyes, maybe even themselves. There are countless stories of 12-year-old students writing their will being unaware that they were in a drill. They drafted goodbye notes to their families in the chance that they got killed in their classrooms.
America has a gun violence epidemic. With fewer restrictions than almost any country, time and time again guns are placed into the hands of those unable to responsibly use them. The debate is not about banning guns, it is about being serious and reforming our gun laws and assuring that our children, grandchildren, husbands, wives, parents, friends, and family are not gunned down by senseless and preventable violence. The price of irresponsible gun ownership is the deaths of children and adults alike, leaving a gaping hole in the lives of their loved ones and our communities.
It is time to act. Those that have been gunned down senselessly heard all the promises to reform gun laws. They heard the words from politicians of thoughts and prayers and they, like me, witnessed false promises to take action and protect. We know that gun violence does not discriminate, that it hits tight knit communities just as often as it hits cosmopolitan cities. We know when we walk into our classrooms, it could be for the last time. Many seniors will no longer graduate, seven year old’s gunned down by an AR-15 will continue to be robbed of their future as too many people in elected office are afraid to act. Ask your children about school shooting drills and collectively reflect about growing up in a world where the reality is that there is always a chance of being killed at the movie theater, a concert, a club, their church, their school, their workplace, their community.
Today I will be wearing orange to demonstrate my support of the movement to enact common sense gun laws, that allow responsible owners to have guns while keeping them from those that could harm others. This violence is preventable, but it is our responsibility to make a change.
Gun violence is serious. Action is necessary, on both sides of the aisle. Bullets do not only hit Democrats or Republicans, they hit six year old children, 40-year-old fathers, and everywhere in between. My generation should not have grown up fearing for our lives in public spaces, but years of inaction has led to this. We expect both sides of the aisle to come together to protect our communities against the 36,383 preventable deaths per year.
Join me and millions of others today by committing to starting a conversation, to wear orange, and to fight for responsible gun laws and a better, safer America.