How Many More? The Need for Gun Control in America


A Letter From Your Editors.


On an average day, 96 Americans are killed through gun violence, a statistic vastly different from other developed nations. That is 96 lives gone once a bullet pierces the skin, 96 families changed forever, 96 last breaths taken. Over 3.5 per 100,000 people will die in the United States every year by gun violence compared to Germany’s 0.12, Iceland’s 0.07, Oman’s 0.06, and Japan’s 0.04. Though the United States is not the leader in gun violence with leaders including El Salvador with 40.29, Venezuela with 34.77, and Guatemala with 26.81, shouldn’t the country that prides itself on being the “greatest” do better?


Students across America have begun to voice that not only do U.S. legislators need to do better, but they must. This is especially important as an entire new generation of voters will be going to the polls this November for midterm elections. Beginning in response to the shooting that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a revolution has started to strip away the notion that “thoughts and prayers” are enough in response to these tragedies. Upset with many U.S. officials, including President Trump, initially responding with only “thoughts and prayers,” Marjory Stoneman Douglas students took to Twitter just days after the shooting to demand promises of action and change from their government. Though President Trump eventually did promise Parkland survivors stronger background checks and tweeted about a possible ban on bump stocks, there has been very little actual legislative action taken in the wake of this movement.


However, this lack of legislative change on Capitol Hill has not stopped others from taking action. CNN hosted and broadcast a town hall meeting at which MSD student Cameron Kasky asked U.S. Senator Marco Rubio whether he would pledge not to take any more NRA money; the Florida Senator’s response did not include a clear intention to discontinue his relationship with the National Rifle Association. Knowing the NRA’s long-standing influence over Republican politicians and various companies, MSD students also utilized Twitter to expose those funded by the association. Since then, more than a dozen businesses have ended their partnership with the NRA after the student-led crusade, and other businesses have restricted their gun sales with many no longer selling firearms to consumers under 21. Dick’s Sporting Goods even plans to destroy the assault-style rifles and accessories it initially agreed to take off its shelves and return to the manufacturer in February. Though arguments could be made that corporations are looking out for their own capital interests as the public’s animosity toward the lack gun control grows, this activity leaves no doubt that the Parkland survivors have turned their grief into action.


Since the #EnoughisEnough campaign began under the leadership of the MSD students, three student-led national protests have taken place. On March 14th, while Nerinx students were enjoying spring break, 2,500 school walkouts were planned and executed, along with any other independent walkouts that took place. Students walked out for 17 minutes to remember the 17 lives lost on February 14th in Parkland. Then, on March 24th, millions across the nation and even globally, marched in their cities to show U.S. officials their want for gun control. Most recently, students walked out once again on April 20th to commemorate the 19th anniversary of the 13 lives lost at Columbine High School in Colorado. Following in the Loretto tradition of working for justice and acting for peace, many Nerinx students and faculty, joined by a few Sisters of Loretto, made their way to the front lawn to honor lives lost through gun violence. The Nerinx Hall administration, wanting to give students a voice, asked a select group of students, and even teachers, to organize and lead the optional service. Senior Amelia Mauldin was in charge of the letter writing committee, promoting the option for students to write letters to lawmakers on the Morning Show in the days before the walkout. When commenting on the importance of connecting with lawmakers, she emphasized, “Although some of us aren’t of age to vote, we can still share our stories and experiences to politicians and ask for their support in combating certain issues. No matter how old you are, there is always something you can do to make a positive difference in your community.” Members of the Nerinx community were also given the choice to wear an orange shirt with their uniform to signify their support of gun control. During the week leading up to the service, teacher Ariel Roukaerts and junior Brianna Chandler created posters plastered with statistics informing those wandering the Hall of the grave effects of gun violence. If Nerinx students and faculty take any message from this past week, Ms. Roukaerts hopes it will be to, “Keep talking, keep writing, don’t let [gun violence] become normalized.” As Nerinx students read aloud the school mass shootings with four or more lives lost since Columbine, a drum sounded off between names, symbolizing the voices of those who no longer have one. The sea of orange stood silent as the song “Shine,” written by survivors of the Stoneman Douglas shooting, was played. When the official prayer service was over, students were invited to pay their respects to the 141 crosses representing the victims of mass school shootings since Columbine. The white crosses stood at the front of Nerinx Hall’s property for all of Webster Groves to see.


Though the demonstration put on and participated in by the Nerinx community on April 20th was exemplary of Loretto values, it is worth noting that we can always do more. Gun violence continues to pervade every community in America. We, as a school community and members of the greater St. Louis area, cannot shy away from these difficult discussions. While gun violence pertaining to mass shootings is an issue that affects all of us at Nerinx, talking about gun violence without talking about race relations is a paradox. As a community with much privilege, it is our responsibility to highlight the gun violence that disproportionately affects black people in the United States, especially living within a city that has a long history of segregation, one with lasting effects. Despite gun violence being a political issue, it encompasses much more. To follow in the footsteps of the Sisters of Loretto, one must seek social justice. Gun violence is a social justice issue as much as it is a political issue. Often, the two areas intersect. Guns allow the marginalized to be preyed upon in our society, whether that be students at schools, a teenage black boy wearing a hoodie, or those who are suicidal. However, with stricter gun control, guns will hopefully not be as easily obtained. If there is one action that current and past Nerinx students and staff can take, it is to keep the conversation, this revolution, alive. Real change can come about, but change takes time; more importantly, change takes perseverance.


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The New York Times


Everytown Research


National Public Radio