COLUMN: We need to talk about gun control before more families, like mine, are ripped apart
When I was 8 years old, my dad was shot and killed on Father’s Day. He was working as a security guard at a shoe store. The person who shot him was a 15-year-old boy trying to steal a pair of shoes.
According to Everytown for Gun Safety, a national movement made up of more than 4 million Americans working to end gun violence, Americans are 25 times more likely to be killed by a gun than people in other developed countries.
On a typical day in America, 96 people are killed with a gun. For every person killed, two more are injured.
In 2018, so far, there have been 1,752 gun-related deaths in America.
Why is it such a devastating problem here? When the U.S. is compared to other developed nations in the world, there is a clear and stark difference: the World Health Organization cited for every 100,000 people in the U.S., 3.6 are killed by a gun. This is a huge difference from the other 22 developed countries – those countries range from 0.5 to 0.
The WHO also reports gun violence is the second leading cause of death in Americans 15-24 years old. Compared to 15-24 year-olds in other countries, Americans are 49 times more likely to be the victim of a gun-related murder.
Again, why is this happening?
The answer is clear: our gun laws are not strict enough.
On April 28, 1996, an Australian man eating lunch at a restaurant in Tasmania, Australia took a semiautomatic rifle out of his bag and opened fire. Before he was stopped, he killed 35 people and wounded 23 — it was the worst mass shooting in Australian history.
Twelve days after the massacre, their government enacted sweeping gun-control measures. Not only were semi-automatic shotguns and rifles banned, but the government bought back more than 600,000 of these weapons. Their new gun laws also prohibit the private sales of firearms.
Australia hasn’t had a mass shooting since.
Compare that to America:
- On Dec. 14, 2012, a 20-year-old man, who was known to be mentally unstable, entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut with a gun and killed 27 people — 20 of whom were children ages 6 and 7.
- On June 12, 2016, a 29-year-old man on the FBI's terrorist watch list entered Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida with a gun and killed 49 people, injuring more than 50.
- On Oct. 1, 2017, America experienced its deadliest mass shooting yet when 64-year-old Stephen Paddock opened fire into a crowd of 20,000 people at a music festival In Las Vegas, killing 59 people and injuring more than 500. Forty-seven weapons were found in his home and his hotel room, from where he shot at the crowd. Paddock legally owned all 47 weapons.
- On Feb. 14, Nikolas Cruz, 19, entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida with a gun and killed 17 people. Fifteen were injured, and five sustained life-threatening injuries, according to hospital officials.
Since the Florida shooting last week, the NRA has remained silent. Senators supported by the NRA have sent out “thoughts and prayers” to the families of the victims and the community.
As someone who lost someone to gun violence, let me say: Your thoughts and prayers are useless.
We need gun control, and we need it before more innocent people are killed.
There are also a lot of people who say we should not talk about gun control so soon after the shooting, because it is disrespectful to the victims’ families and the grieving community. While I can’t speak personally for these people, I can say that the day after my dad was shot, my entire family was devastated, furious and ready to talk about what had to be done to ensure other innocent people and their families would never have to endure the horror we did.
Gun control is an extremely controversial and difficult conversation to have. It isn’t black-and-white. There are so many different factors and issues to be considered when discussing firearms, I understand why people don’t like having “the gun control conversation.”
I understand the pain the families of mass shootings go through — and will continue to go through — unless we act now.
I understand what it's like to not have a dad because of a trigger-happy teen with a gun.