I remember Feb. 14, 2018, as two separate events. One version is Valentine’s Day, and I’m hanging out with my friends, exchanging candy and gifts, swapping stories about our future plans. The other version is overwhelmed by sadness and panic in the air, checking in on friends and colleagues at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and watching as all of the events play out in real time.
It’s only been about a year since March for Our Lives in Washington and the national school walkouts took the media by storm, millions of young activists, including David Hogg and Emma Gonzales, spoke on a national stage and several representatives were put in the hot seat for taking donations from the NRA, including Florida Senator Marco Rubio. The list goes on. People who have lived in Broward County for their entire lives could tell you that they have never seen anything like the tragedy or even the movement that grew from of it. The goal was to keep gun reform in the public conscience, showing the toll that gun violence had on communities. It worked.
Gun violence in America goes beyond mass shootings: homicide, terrorism, gang activity, domestic violence, accidental shootings and more. Whenever the conversation comes up about gun control, we seem to lose focus. More background checks? Are we banning semi-automatic rifles or handguns? Are we not banning guns? What about extending the wait period? One thing is clear. The U.S. government cannot legally take away guns, due to our second amendment rights, but regulations can be instituted for the safety of everyone and determine who can bare arms and who cannot.
According to PEW Trusts, several states across the country have passed nearly fifty new gun reform laws since the tragedy. Of the five measures passed by the state of Florida, two included banning bump stocks and expanding background checks. Most of these measures were nearly twenty years in the making, and the majority, if not all, of these measures were long overdue.
I’m still infuriated that the victims, the children and their teachers, will never have the opportunity to see their loved ones again.
Two of the most deadly mass shootings in American history happened in my home state of Florida: Parkland and Pulse Nightclub. Immediately afterward, the students of Stoneman Douglas, the Parkland community, and millions across the nation decided that enough is enough. If massive protests is what it takes to finally have massive gun reforms, then we still have a long way to go for re-evaluating our own priorities as a nation.
One of the messages that was echoed during the coverage of this tragedy was “it’s only a matter of time before it happens in your own backyard.” The weird thing was that in a lot of ways, from living and going to school in Broward for my entire life, it did. There needs to be more reform in place so that there won’t be a next time.