Eulogize me with a ten-point plan. Tell everyone at my wake how many other people perished just as I did, with statistics and data dripping from your lips. Let my friends know that, had I lived in a country that championed preservation of life over access to weapons, I would still be with them. Drive the hearse with my body all the way from my New York home to Capitol Hill. Let them see your call to action. And on the day the bill becomes law, leave a copy of it on my grave so that I can see for myself all of the ways that I could have been saved but was failed by collective dissonance. They will tell you, “It isn’t the right time.” But I am telling you now, that there will be no better time.
The United States has more mass shootings than any other country. It is a pastime as American as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Like any other tradition, it has its set of rituals. First, we receive news that a shooting is taking place—in a mall, in a school, at a concert. Then we anxiously stand by our televisions and radios until we can breathe an airy sigh of relief once the shooter is apprehended. When the evening report comes in to deliver the final number of victims along with the expected photographs of crying survivors, we cringe.
We send our thoughts and prayers to the departed and their families through social media. We generate hashtags in their honor and spit on the name of their killer. We thwart discussions on the ways that gun control could avoid these tragedies altogether with claims of social niceties, citing that it is disrespectful to the newly minted victims that we turn to politics so swiftly. And while we wait for the “right time” to center our energies on all of the ways we can transform our American reality into one that is less bleak, valuable opportunities for national attention and discussion burn out. The news cycle moves on, hysteria quiets, and we wipe the horror from our minds to grant us some peace, thus giving our government the go-ahead to similarly stagnate. And we carry on in our ignorance until the next mass shooting, when we will do it all over again.
A high school in Parkland, Florida just became the latest locality to experience this specific brand of horror in what can only be described as a modern day Valentine’s Day Massacre. On February 14, 2018, Nikolas Cruz adorned his face with a gas mask and marched to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with an AR-15 rifle—the same weapon used by the shooters at the Las Vegas concert in 2017, at the Orlando night club in 2016, and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. He set off a fire alarm and waited for the hallways before him to fill with targets so that he could open fire and pile up casualties. In the end, 19-year-old Cruz, who had just been expelled from the high school, made the Parkland shooting one of the deadliest mass shootings in modern American history, with seventeen students and staff dead.
When our gun laws were first promulgated, lawmakers contemplated realities that ran parallel to the weapons of their day which could only fire one or two rounds per minute. These are the same laws that are governing the likes of weapons like the AR-15 rifle—a weapon that can fire over a hundred rounds in less than five minutes. As weapons advance, the number of expected casualties climb, and the deadlier shootings become. And yet, our laws fail to follow this trend of change and remain preserved in their proverbial formaldehyde, with its gatekeepers refusing to open them, examine them, or strengthen them for the sake of our collective safety.
Thus, given the high probability of my victimhood as a citizen in a country so cursed by the phenomenon of preventable death, I hereby grant you all permission, in the event that I, too, should perish at the hands of gun violence, to disrupt the cycle to which we’ve all become accustomed. It will never be disrespectful, or too early, to turn the discussion into a political one on how our government can prevent tragedies like my own. Speak on the news. Shout in the streets. Submit op-eds to all of the publications that will have you. You have an unlimited pool of time to grieve my life so, first, make noise and pound your chests. Let the world know, as you lower me into the ground, that gun violence is our choice to preserve or abandon. Use my name to illustrate what preservation leads to.
You have my permission.
If you do not want to wait until then to take action, here’s what you can do now:
You can donate to organizations like The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence or Everytown for Gun Safety. You can also volunteer your time, as an alternative to monetary support, for any events that organizations like these may hold for purposes of fundraising and/or community outreach.
Contact your state representatives and let them know that you support gun control—and want them to do so as well. You can easily find your representative’s contact information here.
Contact members of Congress and let them know you support gun control. Write them letters, call their offices, and leave them messages. Every interaction, attempted or successful, matters.
Vote. Get yourself registered if you aren’t already. Get educated on the stances that politicians take on gun control and cast your ballot accordingly.
Keep the discussion alive both online and in your lived interactions. Tweet your heart away, but talk about it over drinks with friends as well. Don’t let the discussion end with the news cycle.
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