An open letter to America on gun control

We need to do better


Courtesy of Teen Vogue

Police surround a school bus after a shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville, Tenn.

Dillon Clark, Staff Columnist

Dear America,

No sugarcoating. No getting around it. No imagery. No fancy language. No bullsh*t… 

We need to do better. 

This is no longer an issue of politics. It is an issue of our livelihood. 

We cannot simply wait for Congress to put aside their parties as the blood of our children runs down our classroom walls and whiteboards. It’s a disturbing thought. I know. But I couldn’t care less about our comfort. Enough is enough.

I can’t even begin to tell you how often I’ve heard those words. “Enough is enough.” When I was in eighth grade, February 2018, after the Parkland school shooting that killed 17. “Enough is enough.” My senior year of high school, May 2022, after the Uvalde school shooting that killed 22. “Enough is enough.” Nashville, Tenn., March 27, 2023, leaving six dead, three of which were under the age of 10.

High school students attend a vigil after a mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

I wish I could say I don’t bear responsibility for those deaths, but I do. We all do. We see and acknowledge the problem and time and time again we let it drift to the backs of our minds until once again it resurges. 

The politicization of the issue has made it nearly impossible to create meaningful change. Both Democrats and Republicans are senseless to the urgency and desperation with which our country needs change. 

Yet, we are content with sitting in a standoff. We are content with simply offering our thoughts and prayers and just hoping that it doesn’t happen again. 

This is where my frustration lies. Regardless of what you think the source of the problem is, there is action and something that can be done to prevent this from happening again. 

Think the problem is gun control and background checks? Create bipartisan bills that make it harder to purchase AR-15s. All the guns in Parkland, Uvalde and Nashville were purchased legally. The Nashville shooter was able to buy seven guns without their parents knowing and without raising any red flags. The Uvalde shooter was able to buy two AR-15s and more than 1,600 rounds of ammunition shortly after turning 18 years old. No one was alerted. If that isn’t an indicator that our gun control system and policy is beyond horrible, I don’t know what is. 

Do you think the source of the problem is mental health? Then support mental health reform and offer affordable accessibility to mental healthcare. We have yet to fully include the practice of psychiatric and psychological testing in the process of background checks. It is worth mentioning that the same Republicans who claim our gun problem to be a mental health problem repeatedly have denied mental health care reform.

When the shooter is a white male, several Republicans constantly reason that mental health is the true reason behind the crime and not the gun. Yet, if you watched Fox News at all after the Nashville shooting, you would hear Sen. Josh Hawley call it “a hate crime against Christianity” and Tucker Carlson blame it on transgender people and their “demonic ideology that is infecting this country.” In a time of mourning and national grief over the three American children and three American adults killed in Nashville, some Republicans have inappropriately resorted to hate and division. Twenty-nine percent of transgender youths and 16% of gay and lesbian youths are threatened or injured with a weapon on school property.  It is this exact hate and division that fuels and perpetuates bullying, hate crimes, LGBTQ+ violence and cultural violence in the United States. 

America is opening its eyes and turning to the realization that our gun control is more than lackadaisical. Some extreme conservatives are resorting to fear and desperately grasp at hate and division to cover up for the fact that guns, as protective as they might be, are not worth the blood of our children and are not the solution to this problem. They might say “mass shootings make up only a small fraction of gun deaths” or “cars cause more deaths but they are legal.” Let’s talk about facts, then. 

Since the mid-2000s, mass shooting deaths in the United States have increased dramatically. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

No other country in the world has nearly the number of mass shootings as the United States. We make up 5% of the world population yet 31% of mass shootings. Since the Columbine school shooting in 1999, there have been 376 school shootings and nearly 349,000 people have experienced gun violence at school. Guns are the number one leading cause of death among American children and teens. Children 19 or younger are one in 10 gun deaths. Practical use is also an important factor. We use cars and trucks each day to transport, get home and travel. We are quite literally fueled by their practicality. Guns have mainly two practical uses for the public — defense and hunting. An AR-15 is needed in neither case. You don’t go hunting with an AR-15 because, at the end of using it, nothing is left. It has no other purpose but to shred a body to pieces. 

How long will it take us to learn? This can’t be about politics. The more we let ourselves divide into factions and parties, the more shootings like this will happen. We each have a practical answer, whether it be gun control or mental health or better police protection of schools. We can’t let our religion, race, sexuality, identity or party get in the way of progress and cooperation. 

On March 27, 2023, six people lost their voices. They will no longer be able to tell their loved ones good morning or goodnight or even “I love you.” They may have lost their voices, but we have not lost ours. We must speak for those without a voice and honor the lives of those who lost theirs. 

Thank you, and God bless the United States of America.

Dillon Clark