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I was a 6-year-old in a war zone. It felt safer than life in the mass shooting zone called America

Virginia Beach shooting leaves 11 dead, six wounded

A disgruntled city employee opened fire at a municipal building in Virginia Beach on May 31, 2019, killing 11 people and wounding six others.
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A disgruntled city employee opened fire at a municipal building in Virginia Beach on May 31, 2019, killing 11 people and wounding six others.

During the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War, my family and I visited our friends in Kfar Vradim, a small village in northern Israel within close proximity to Lebanon where Hezbollah was situated. Throughout our visit, sirens routinely went off when a conflict broke out near the town. The alarms indicated that we needed to enter the bomb shelter.

I was petrified. I vividly recall hearing gunshots being fired from afar. It sounded as if 1,000 pistols were shot every minute.

I was a 6-year-old in a war zone. It felt far from ideal. But at least I had the bomb shelter as an escape – unlike the 12 people who were murdered and the several others who were injured in Virginia Beach 10 days ago.

Today, and every day, America’s children, women and men are in a constant war zone without shelters to protect them. At any point, without the warning of an alarm, we may find ourselves victims of a shooting in this country.

Some of us have already heard of this terrifying statistic: More than 39,000 people – outnumbering direct U.S. military deaths in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – die from guns each year. The shooting last Friday was simply one of an endless list of atrocities that this country religiously endures.

Remember the horrors in Sutherland Springs, Texas almost two years ago, in Parkland, Florida last year, and in Aurora, Illinois this past February? These merely depict a microscopic glance of the many mass killings that take place each year in America — all of which contribute to our country’s war-like conditions.

These circumstances impact every sphere of our lives. When I was in 7th grade, my Los Angeles school was put on lockdown as three presumably-armed burglary suspects were near the school. Right after hearing the lockdown announcement, my classmates and I knew exactly what to do. We immediately stacked up the desks to block the door entrance, turned off the lights and our phones, closed the window blinds, hid near the side of the classroom and remained silent.

How sad. We were mere adolescents expected to be prepared for an active shooter. Our reality diminishes childhood innocence.

The catastrophe in Virginia Beach was part of a recurring phenomenon, which has fostered frightening circumstances. Little kids in America are now trained to know the precise procedures of what do if their school is threatened by a shooter. Citizens in their places of worship now fear of murder. People must now think twice before attending a music festival for fear of being killed, as so many were in Las Vegas in 2017.

Earlier this year, the Democratic-led House of Representatives attempted to address the constant bloodshed. For the first time in decades, they passed two gun control bills in an effort to strengthen background checks conducted on individuals before purchasing firearms. Frankly, however, the House can pass as many gun safety laws as it desires, but without President Donald Trump and Sen. Mitch McConnell following suit, the aforementioned conditions will remain.

Unlike Republicans, Democrats have proved to be determined to create gun safety measures. Citizens must understand that the 2020 elections can end these devastatingly common gun shootings, which devilishly impact our nation. Americans must vote for a path that will generate greater safety from these horrendous gun-related calamities.

I found myself in a Middle Eastern war zone when I was 6. But I was more secure than those who perished in Virginia and in the innumerable mass shootings America has undergone in past years. It’s common sense to assert that the federal government must address these catastrophes. America will never be “great again” if we continue to live in an unexpected war zone.

Noam Haykeen is an immigrant from Israel who studies political science at UC Berkeley. Follow him on Twitter: @noam_haykeen.
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