More Than Thoughts and Prayers

Last week’s mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, OR., marked the 141st school shooting since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT., 34 months ago, according to NBC News.

We, as high school students, feel particularly connected to these events. Despite the relative security of the Andover campus, when school shootings occur, we feel a distinct sense that it could have been us. We could have been the ones whose lives were cut much too short.

In 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 33,636 gun-related deaths in the United States. 33 percent of those deaths were classified as homicides and 63 percent were classified as suicides. In each year after 2001 until 2013, according to Vox, firearm-related deaths outnumbered deaths from terrorist attacks by approximately a 1,000:1 ratio. The United States’s population makes up about four percent of the world, but United States citizens own 42 percent of the world’s non-military firearms, according to Vox.

It would be naïve and irresponsible to disregard those facts as coincidences or a direct result of a larger “mental health” issue in the U.S., which is often the excuse of choice used in the media when mass shootings occur. The fact is that we have a gun problem in our country that will not solve itself. We often reduce the people killed in these shootings to bodies and death counts. But in doing so, we distance ourselves from the fact that the people killed were siblings, children, parents and friends. These people had real lives that mattered.

Of course, we know that at this point in our lives, we do not have a significant say in gun legislation. But we feel that it is important to share these statistics, because we have the opportunity now to reflect upon our own ideas and beliefs. With the frequency of gun-related deaths in the U.S., we fear becoming desensitized to the threat of gun violence. It’s something that has already begun to happen. Last week, an incident in which an 11-year-old boy in Tennessee fatally shot an 8-year-old girl over an argument about a puppy largely flew under the radar in popular media. We implore the Andover community to open their eyes to Congress’s massive failures in addressing these gun-related issues.

This editorial represents the views of The Phillipian Editorial Board CXXXVIII.