As people across the country spend today celebrating love, many in Parkland, Florida, are remembering the tragedy and loss they endured when a gunman entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
One year ago today their community lost 17 lives to gun violence: Alyssa Alhadeff, 14; Scott Beigel. 35; Martin Duque Anguiano, 14; Nicholas Dworet. 17; Aaron Feis, 37; Jaime Guttenberg, 14; Chris Hixon, 49; Luke Hoyer, 15; Cara Loughran, 14; Gina Montalto,14; Joaquin Oliver, 17; Alaina Petty, 14; Meadow Pollack, 18; Helena Ramsay, 17; Alex Schachter, 14; Carmen Schentrup, 16; and Peter Wang, 15.
Many student survivors who became activists promised this time would be different. We would never forget. And we haven’t. We’ve remembered every victim. In their memory, we’ve held vigils, ousted NRA-backed politicians and pushed legislation. We’ve remembered not only the Parkland victims, but the Santa Fe victims, the Capital Gazette victims, the Thousand Oaks victims — and too many others. But we must do more.
Mass shootings in affluent white communities dominate news cycles, but it’s the everyday gun violence that dominates the gun death rate — especially in marginalized communities. These include suicides by firearm, women shot by intimate partners and people killed in accidental discharges. Our #EnoughIsEnough and #NeverForget hashtags rarely apply to these forms of gun violence, but they should.
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In America, 36,000 people die every year due to gun violence. Nearly two-thirds of those deaths are suicides, a largely ignored aspect of gun violence. Suicidal thoughts are found to be impulsive and fleeting, but with a firearm, they’re almost always fatal. In a study conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine, findings show that 90% of people who survive suicide attempts do not die by suicide later. However, surviving a suicide attempt by firearm is extremely rare, and having a gun in the house increases your risk of suicide exponentially.
Domestic violence victims in America are five times more likely to be killed if their abuser has access to a gun. Mass shootings are most commonly acts of domestic or family violence as well. In an analysis of every mass shooting between 2009 and 2016, 54 percent were committed by intimate partners or family members.
The presence of a gun in a domestic dispute can very easily escalate into a mass shooting, leaving you and your loved ones in harm’s way. Facts like these make Gun Violence Restraining Orders (GVROs) important. California’s existing GVROs allow close family members and law enforcement to petition the court to prohibit someone who is thought to be a danger to themselves or others from possessing guns or ammunition.
However, this extremely useful tool is rarely utilized by law enforcement, due in part to a lack of training around the issue. Assembly Bill 165 aims to change that.
AB 165, authored by Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel of San Fernando, would require law enforcement to work with experts on the issue to develop a training on GVROs that would be incorporated into basic training for law enforcement.
California is leading the way on common sense gun safety laws. In addition to AB 165, a whole host of common sense gun bills have been introduced, including Senate Bill 55, which would expand crime-related firearm prohibitions, and SB 61, which would limit firearm purchases to one per month.
But we can’t rely on politicians alone to solve gun violence. Each of us must do more to stop it.
Don’t wait until it happens to you. Push for change now. Call, write and meet with your representatives. Advocate for common sense legislation. If you own guns, store them safely and ensure every house your children visit does the same.
Do everything in your power to ensure the tragedy that the people of Parkland faced one year ago never happens in your community. Because unless we demand sensible gun safety laws, it’s only a matter of time.