Westlake High School

Opinion: Gun violence must end

A year ago, Thousand Oaks, Calif. was hit with the tragedy at Borderline Bar and Grill — the lives of 12 were lost, and the lives of so many more were changed forever. 

In the years leading up to Borderline, shootings were extremely prevalent. It had become a normality to hear of a deadly shooting at a mall or a school or a public store. The Gun Violence Archive shows that there are one or more shootings daily in America, most of which the average person doesn’t hear about. 

Susan Orfanos, whose son was killed in the Thousand Oaks Borderline shooting in 2018, speaks at a student-led forum on gun violence, demanding gun reform. (Photo by Avery Pak)

However, it was hard to feel the weight of these deaths and senseless acts until it affected those in my community. It was hard to feel the weight until I realized a girl from my own church had been a victim at Borderline.

It was hard to feel the weight until I attended a student-led forum on gun violence at my own school. I know it shouldn’t take something like this to grasp the severity of the situation, but I am glad it did, because I now know change is necessary.

After the shooting at Saugus High School that killed three students, including the shooter, I was not necessarily expecting, but hoping for a desire for change among politicians. 

“We send our deepest condolences to the families and friends of those tragically lost, and we pray for the speedy recovery of the wounded,” President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter. 

Thoughts and prayers have never been, and will never be, enough. Thoughts and prayers spur unity and comfort; however, true change must come from new legislation and concrete amendments to the current system. 

“In other countries where there has been a mass shooting, enough conservatives have sometimes been willing to step up and say, ‘Enough is enough,’” David Hemenway, professor of health policy at Harvard School of Public Health, said, according to The Harvard Gazette. “That is what happened in Australia. The conservative government said, ‘Even if we get voted out by our conservative colleagues, we just can’t stand this anymore.’ In this country, after mass shootings, very few people on the conservative side are willing to stand up.”

During the forum, it is shown that the United States’ rate of gun murders is exponentially higher than that of other countries. (Photo by Avery Pak)

Many may argue that the right to bear arms was written in the Constitution, which cannot be argued against. But it is critical to approach this amendment in a way the original framers of the Consitution did. America was built on a foundation that would protect its people from danger and irrational harm, and it seems as though bearing arms is not being used for safety anymore. 

As the young people of the country without governmental positions or formal degrees, it may seem like we hold little power to spark change. However, small actions lead to big changes. Contact elected officials, whether it be a Congressperson, Assemblymember, or Senator, demanding his or her support for gun reform.

A phone call, email, or even potential face-to-face discussion is a significant step on our behalf that can lead to bans and stricter regulation of weapons. Join a local community or student-run group that advocates for gun reform, and make yourself heard by attending marches and events that push for change. There is no more time to wait for others to implement new policies, because it clearly isn’t working.