Hiredesai: When will it end? Mass shootings in America

Annika Hiredesai, Assistant Opinion Editor

Content warning: This story discusses gun violence and death.

I learned how to hide from gunmen as a 7-year-old when our elementary school first instituted code red drills. I think we were actually told that we were practicing how to hide from a wild animal on the loose, but we all knew why we were packed in the far corner of the room with the lights out and furniture against a locked door. The terrible truth is that in the United States, school children being gunned down is not just a nightmare, but our monstrous reality. 

On Tuesday, my professor spoke about the evolution of domestic terrorism in the United States post 9/11 in light of the recent attack on a supermarket in Buffalo, NY, targeting Black people that left 10 dead. He noted that increasingly, acts of terror are committed by lone gunmen targeting vulnerable civilians in public places. Just hours later, my phone pinged and I saw the notification reading “A shooting at an elementary school in Texas…” 

Words cannot do justice to the staggering losses families have suffered at the hands of gun violence, to the fear and agony in the hearts of so many Americans. I am beyond frustrated that it is even necessary for me to write this. Still, I am here pleading with you to listen and use your voice.

One argument against gun control legislation is that reform is unnecessary because a mass shooting is the result of one sick individual’s actions. While I agree this country is in the midst of a mental health crisis, that is no justification for this violence. How can we reduce gun violence to the individual if there have been more than 200 mass shootings already this year? How can we reduce gun violence to the individual if violent people exist in every corner of the world, yet gun violence is a uniquely American plague? 

There are also those who claim limiting gun ownership targets the wrong group of people. They insist legally-purchased firearms are not the problem. I need not look further than the gunman who killed 21 people on Tuesday in Uvalde, Texas, to suggest otherwise. Texas Sen. Roland Gutierrez said he was briefed that the shooter legally purchased two semi-automatic rifles on his 18th birthday. I do not think I am alone in asking how we can justify a teenager’s access to weapons capable of murdering nineteen children and two teachers.

Despite the political polarization and unwillingness to compromise that characterizes our legislative bodies, I am not — I refuse to be — without hope that change is within reach. I think back to March 2018 when I and millions other concerned people gathered outside high schools and city halls to march for our lives, one of the largest protests in American history. As we collectively walked out of class and spilled onto the sidewalk with posters clutched in our hands, I stood side-by-side with my peers as we voiced our fears and frustrations into the emotionally-charged air. These demonstrations were the catalyst for several steps forward in gun reform: prohibition of bump stocks, gun safety groups outspending the National Rifle Association and historical midterm election youth turnout.  

Still, these victories were clearly not enough to prevent future gun violence in America. Further legislation, particularly banning assault-style weapons, is necessary. We have accumulated so much trauma as a nation inundated with mass shootings. We note exits in movie theaters, feel anxious at concerts and sporting events and worry for our children in schools. 

I encourage you to contribute what you are able toward aid for victims and their families. Moreover, take your anguish, your fury, your heartbreak, and use it to organize, march and vote for change — for life.  

Annika Hiredesai is a Weinburg junior. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.