“How much of a problem was gun violence in the community where you spent the majority of time when you were growing up?”
While I took the Second Amendment survey that had been sent out to CU students, nothing seemed to stand out about the kind of information it was asking for. Until I stumbled upon this question.
I grew up in the small town of Newtown, Connecticut. On Dec, 14, 2012, a shooter came into the Sandy Hook Elementary School, just a few miles from my middle school classroom, and killed 20 students and six teachers. To this day, it is the second largest school shooting in United States history. I was only 12 years old.
The years following the tragedy were filled with sadness, pain and a realization among all of us as a community that something in this country needed to change. And while we did feel despair, we also felt a calling that we had to be bigger than a town that went through a mass shooting.
I responded to the survey question by selecting “a very big problem.”
According to the survey administered via the app Pulse, only four percent of students considered gun violence in the community where they grew up to be “a very big problem.” Sixty-one percent considered it “not a problem at all.” I knew that being from Newtown, Connecticut placed me in a marginalized statistic, but looking at the four percent of students who may or may not have been affected by gun violence back home only reassured me that I went through something no one else ever should have to.
The survey revealed that 48 percent of students grew up with a gun in their household. While those who own a firearm in a household often do so for protection purposes, 89 percent of unintentional deaths among children occur inside of a home with a loaded gun.
Following the Sandy Hook shooting, gun sales rose dramatically despite the call for stricter gun control laws.
Keeping a firearm inside of a home only increases risk. People who report having a firearm in their house are at twice the risk of homicide and more than three times more likely at risk to commit suicide.
In addition to these unsettling statistics, there is also a very problematic history of mass shooters obtaining their weapons from their own home. The Sandy Hook shooter, Adam Lanza, used two of his mother’s assault rifles that she kept in the house to kill 26 people. Between the two rifles, Lanza shot over 150 bullets in less than five minutes.
Having greater accessibility to weapons in a house makes it that much easier for anyone with harmful intentions to get a hold of them, even if they are locked up.
This past July, the city of Boulder unanimously voted to ban the purchasing and possession of any new assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and bump stock devices. Colorado is home to some of the most law-abiding gun owners. However, in 2012, a CU employee working at the Anschutz Medical campus accidentally fired a handgun while showing it to a fellow coworker. The CU employee was immediately fired for possession and unlawful conduct on public property.
This kind of an incident occurring on CU campuses shows that even in a place with some of the most law-abiding gun owners, guns still make us less safe when they are so easily accessible.
The survey also reported that 42 percent of CU students strongly support stricter gun laws, 54 percent believe that controlling gun ownership is more important than protecting the right of Americans to own guns and 40 percent think that protecting the right of Americans to own guns is more important than controlling gun ownership. But if we really do believe that controlling gun ownership is more important than protecting the right to own guns, then we will have to do a whole lot more than answer a survey.
Mental health should be a huge deciding factor in who can and cannot own a gun.
On Feb. 14, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz opened fire in his high school in Parkland, Florida. One year prior to the shooting, Cruz was able to legally purchase an AR-15 style rifle. This was despite the fact that he had been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School due to disciplinary reasons and that someone close to Cruz had sent in a tip to the FBI that he had the potential of conducting a mass school shooting after demonstrating “a desire to kill people” and “erratic behavior.”
While the Second Amendment itself may never see any changes or a repeal, improvements in gun control must be made to assure that no one has to experience the effects of gun violence.
The final question of the survey asked, “how concerned are you about the threat of a mass shooting on your college campus?” The most popular response (34 percent of students) was “somewhat concerned.” With mass shootings occurring much more frequently, it’s easy to fear that your school may be next.
I never thought that my small town in Connecticut could ever become a place of such tragedy. Until it did.
Following Sandy Hook —and, most recently, the Parkland shooting — the insistence on stricter gun control laws issued a nationwide movement. Marches, petitions, boycotts and a huge demand for change has surged through the country in the hopes that Congress may do something about the gun violence epidemic we face on a daily basis. On March 24, 2018, I marched for my life alongside approximately 800,000 other people in Washington D.C. The feeling of being a part of something so monumental in history could never be justly described through words. I simply knew that if there was a meaning to my life, that was it.
I do not know why Adam Lanza went to the elementary school down the road and not to my middle school or to the high school, but I do know that coming out of that day alive meant that from there on out I had to be a voice for those who lost theirs to the wrong end of the gun.
Contact CU Independent Opinion Staff Writer Savannah Mather at firstname.lastname@example.org.