One of my high school friends was in the library when the UNC Charlotte shooting happened. One of those injured was the sister of a girl I had in one of my history classes. When the HBCU shooting happened in Atlanta, one of my friends was outside of the crowd.
I have countless more stories of tragedies that happened in the last few years, near me. At a mall close to my house, at a high school a few miles from mine, the examples don’t stop. The local news app notifies my phone of every shooting happening near me, and though it wrecks me, I can’t bear turning it off.
Those who speak on it
A common trend is for those who have been involved in shootings to become particularly adamant in changing gun legislation and advocate for change, which makes complete sense; when tragedies such as losing your child, friend, sibling, or nearly your own life occur, it is logical to want to speak out about it more than ever before. Advocates like David Hogg, Emma González or Drew Pescaro are all students fighting for change after surviving catastrophes like the Parkland shooting. Parents like Fred Guttenberg began their own activism after the tragic loss of their children, and are now pillars in important movements like Moms Demand Action or March For Our Lives, groups determined to end gun violence, especially within educational environments.
To take on this crisis, we need to think big.
To take on corrupt powers that be, we have to be strategic.
To take on violence, we have to be pro-peace.
Introducing: A Peace Plan for a Safer America. Created by survivors, so you don’t have to be one.https://t.co/cDryRiWLta
— March For Our Lives (@AMarch4OurLives) August 21, 2019
The terrible side of the coin is the suffering that these figures have been through before and will likely experience for the rest of their lives. Losing a child or classmate because of senseless violence is something that one never really recovers from, despite well-wished efforts to be proactive in the wake of the tragedy.
The day it happens to me
It is a cruel reality for me and many of my peers to have to think about us being next, about our classrooms being violated by firearms that should have never found their ways into the hands of civilians. Recently, one of the bars in the vicinity of my university was terrorized by shots fired and the injury of one person. Though the incident was not deadly, getting the notification through my university’s safety system left my roommates and I terrified. We closed our blinds and locked our door, deeply scared that the shooter at that bar, five minutes from our dorm, would somehow make his way to our building. That fear was nothing but justified, given countless other similar events in recent news stories.
I feared for several hours that evening that I might become another student to have experienced a school shooting. Before I learned that the suspect had been apprehended and did not make his way onto campus, I felt paralyzed. It was in the aftermath that I realized that, I cannot wait.
I cannot wait until this happens to me. I cannot wait to be the victim of witnessing a similar disaster where I go to school. I cannot wait to be outspoken about this to the fullest extent until it is out of pain and sheer suffering from a past experience. I cannot wait to see my friends die to do my best to prevent it.
What to do now
I cannot wait, and you cannot either. If you have never experienced a tragedy like such, which I hope from the bottom of my heart is the case, you have to start speaking up, or speaking up louder. The adage “better safe than sorry” rings very true in this situation; it is better to make an effort to speak up all together now, than to each have to experience a personal horror to start.
Here is how you can speak up and act, aside from donating to organizations like the aforementioned.
- You can vote in your local elections, and make sure that you are supporting candidates who make gun control and gun violence prevention a priority.
- You can rethink the way that you or your family own guns, if you do, and ensure that proper safety measures are always followed.
- You can educate your family members and surroundings about safe gun use, and how to avoid accidents.
- You can take a weekend to march and lobby in your vicinity.
- You can speak out on social media, following hashtags and trends like “Wear Orange” to reach out to your friends and followers.
- You can, if you work with or are around children often, implement healthy, peaceful communication (and with adults as well!).
- You can report any suspicious behavior that you see, especially at school. If someone’s behavior gives you a bad feeling, report it to the health center, the Dean of students or any authority within your school/university.
- You can talk about it, with friends, families or in class, and express your concerns and wish to end gun violence.
- You can research the root causes of gun violence, and make it a research project and then an awareness campaign within your school.
- You can keep reading articles, testimonies and reports, to further understand the issue and how to empathize with survivors and their families.
The important thing to remember is that you can. You can do things, regardless of whether gun violence has affected you directly. You can, and you should. It’s time, for you and I alike, to stop waiting until the day this might happen to us.
Cover Image: Oliver Munday, special to ProPublica Illinois