I wrote a letter to my representative and senator after the tragedy of the Pulse shooting in Orlando and with great sorrow, I have to say that neither of them responded to me. My closing sentiment was full of hope and my last bit of faith which was quickly lost as they failed. There was not even a returning stock email with the words, “Your message has been received.”
Their response was silence.
This is a hard letter to begin because it is hard to comprehend the immense amount of emotions that I have been feeling since the news of the horrible mass shooting in Orlando. I have been warring with fear for myself but also the drive to act. To change. To make every person in America safe.
This goes beyond the fight of LGBTQ+ people for their rights. Though that is a massive undertaking, the problem we are dealing with now is even larger. Young people have been brutally murdered in Orlando. Adults lost their lives in San Bernardino in 2015. Students were killed in the shootings at Columbine and Virginia Tech; though, that is barely the start of the list of school shootings that have taken place in our country since 2013. And children. Children, representative, innocent children, no longer had their whole life ahead of them when an armed man entered Sandy Hook Elementary.
I hope you know the statistics. I hope that you understand that in 2015, there were 372 shootings in the United States. That is more than one a day. At the time of writings this letter to you, there have been 176 shootings since the beginning of 2016 and that number continues to rise. There were at least 10 in the week leading up to the Orlando shooting alone.
I also hope that you see the trend in other countries. Germany requires a psychiatric evaluation and has a higher age limit than the United States. France requires purchasers to have no criminal record. They must also submit to a background check that considers health and the reason for which they wish to purchase the gun. In the United Kingdom, handguns are illegal for private citizens. And then there is Australia, a country that has not had a mass shooting since 1996 when they decided to initiate strict gun control laws. The only affect that these laws have had on the citizens of Australia is keeping them alive.
Now, I understand that America is the land of the free and the 2nd Amendment has existed since the Founding Fathers put their pens to paper to create this independent country. But consider the words of Thomas Jefferson: “Whatever be the Constitution, great care must be taken to provide a mode of amendment when experience or change of circumstances shall have manifested that any part of it is unadapted to the good of the nation.” There is an amendment process. It seems as if our country has reached the point, in which part of the Constitution is no longer keeping the people safe.
A representative and a constituent need to be able to be honest with one another and so I will tell you that I do not have knowledge of every single detail of our current gun laws. But what I do know is: There is no justification or explanation, to allow any civilian of what is supposed to be this great nation of America, but which is now wracked with grief and pain and sorrow, to buy or own a military grade weapon. The name itself serves to indicate who should be able to handle such a weapon.
Senators were split and some voted against background checks for purchasing a gun in 2015. This allowed for a man who was being watched by the FBI for possible terrorist activity, to purchase an assault rifle with ease. And the only question I’m left with is why? There is no harm in doing background checks on everyone who wants to purchase a gun and those who are purchasing them for legal reasons would have no qualms about these checks. I am urging for loopholes such as these in our gun laws to be remedied so that dangerous people will not be easily given the materials in which to carry out horrendous deeds.
Gun violence in the United States has become an epidemic and it does not have to be so. There are ways to fix this problem if only people would take the steps to do so. I fear you and not only you, but the other leaders of this country who are still blind to the horrors that are happening. I fear that you are not courageous enough to take a stand against what is, without exception, evil. I fear that you will see this letter, read it, and not be affected. I fear that you have become numb to these mass shootings and they have become the norm for the country. How absolutely horrific is that thought?
I have heard enough of the calls to prayer. Of telling everyone to “keep the victims and their families in your thoughts.” How many times have we been told to pray for an end to these tragedies? Too many to count. But yet, they continue on. It seems as if we need more than prayer and thought. I urge you to be a voice against the violence.
Thank you for doing what is right for the people of the United States.