Only in America: late last month, six-year-old Jacob Hall was shot and killed by a 14-year-old boy on his school playground in South Carolina, the one place where a child should be wholly safe and carefree.
This tragic event should be an anomaly; it should spur our legislators into action to ensure that no future precious children suffer the same fate.
In reality, neither are true. Little Jacob’s death was no anomaly, and if legislators react as they have in the past, they are unlikely to produce common sense reform.
Gun violence in the U.S. has reached a crisis level, but lawmakers have been continuously stagnant and stubbornly resistant in enacting comprehensive gun control reform that could keep weapons out of the hands of those like Adam Lanza, Seung-Hui Cho, Omar Mateen and a terribly long list of others.
There have been approximately 200 school shootings since the incomparably tragic day in Newtown, Connecticut. Mass shootings occur with disturbing regularity, and by this point, we know the drill: legislators tweet their “thoughts and prayers,” argue about gun control for a few weeks and take no concrete action. This pattern is deplorable.
Other highly industrialized countries have crime rates comparable to that of the U.S., but crimes in the U.S. are far more deadly due to the vast proliferation of guns. While the U.S. is only home to less than five percent of the world’s population, Americans own 35-50 percent of the world’s civilian-owned firearms.
As a result, the firearm homicide rate in the U.S. (3.54 per 100,000 people) dwarfs that of any other first-world country.
It is disgraceful that American civilians can legally purchase weapons that are designed to kill others with a coldly calculated speed and efficiency. Make no mistake: these are weapons of war. Many of the deadliest mass shootings in American history simply would not have been possible had their perpetrators been unable to obtain them.
What better time to prove that America retains a sense of righteousness and compassion than during the upcoming election? Action against the gun violence epidemic is a major facet of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s platform. She will “take on the gun lobby and fight for common sense reforms to keep guns away from terrorists, domestic abusers and other violent criminals — including comprehensive background checks and closing loopholes that allow guns to fall into the wrong hands.”
However, Republican nominee Donald Trump has stated that he plans to “cherish the Second Amendment.” The choice is clear.
The duty to vote for common sense gun reforms doesn’t stop at the presidential level. Vote blue to flip the Senate and the House of Representatives —Democrats in both chambers have mobilized to initiate comprehensive gun reform.
In June, just days after 49 people were killed at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut led a 15-hour filibuster to force gun safety measures to reach the floor.
Shortly thereafter, House Democrats led by Georgia Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis staged a sit-in on the House floor that lasted until early morning. While neither the filibuster nor the sit-in led to successful passage of a reform bill, forcing votes held Congressman in both chambers accountable and caused them to go on the record with a vote yes or no.
Now is not the time to debate the precise wording of the Second Amendment. No right is unbounded and exempt from some degree of regulation. It is time for our leaders to divorce themselves from the influence of special interest groups and put the safety of the American people — particularly children first.
Gun violence has ceased to be a political issue; as more innocent lives are tragically ended each month, it is now a public health crisis and a moral choice. There is a time when unbridled personal freedom ends and public responsibility begins and that time is now.