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We are 20- and 21-year old college students at Arizona State University. Today, on National Gun Violence Awareness Day, we reflect on our time growing up in the midst of the gun-violence epidemic, an epidemic in which an average of 100 lives will be lost each day. We’ve grown up with gun violence — mass shootings, police violence, and suicides — in the news and on social media on a near daily basis.
We were in 6th and 7th grade — just 11 and 12 years old — when 20 students and 6 teachers were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut.
We were freshmen and sophomores in high school — 14 and 15 years old — when 9 church goers were killed at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
We were sophomores and juniors in high school — 15 and 16 years old — when 49 people were killed at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
We were juniors and seniors in high school — 16 and 17 years old — when 59 people (the most in United States history) were killed at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Paradise, Nevada.
We were juniors and seniors in high school — still 16 and 17 years old — when 14 students and 3 teachers were killed at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
We were seniors in high school and freshmen in college — 17 and 18 years old — when 11 people were killed at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
We were freshmen and sophomores in college — 18 and 19 years old — when 22 shoppers were killed at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas and less than 24 hours later 10 people were killed outside a bar in Dayton, Ohio.
We were sophomores and juniors in college — both 20 years old — when there were 45 mass shootings in a month.
These horribly tragic mass shootings account for only a fraction of the gun violence that occurs in our country every day. In discussions of gun violence, violence inflicted by the state often goes unmentioned. This must change. We refuse to ignore the injustice of police violence against marginalized populations, especially in Black communities. We refuse to forget the names of David McAtee, Sean Reed, Breonna Taylor, Atatiana Jefferson, Antwon Rose Jr., Aaron Bailey, Charleena Lyles, Jordan Edwards, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Corey Lamar Jones, Mya Hall, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, KiKi Gray, and all of the Black individuals whose lives have been stolen by armed white supremacy.
We believe it is time for Congress to take action to end the gun-violence epidemic and save lives. We support the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms, but no amendment is absolute. Just like you can’t yell fire in a crowded theater, life-saving common sense gun safety measures are needed.
According to a 2019 ABC News/Washington Post poll, overwhelming bipartisan majorities support common sense gun safety measures. Expanding background checks is supported by 83% of Republicans and 89% of Americans overall. Extreme risk protection orders (ERPOs) — laws that allow family members to petition a court to remove guns from an individual — are supported by 85% of Republicans and 86% of Americans overall. Less popular, but just as necessary, are our demands to reallocate funding from police forces to community resources such as education and physical and mental health care in order to reimagine public safety.
It is past time for action because no one should be afraid to go to school, the mall, church, a bar, or a music festival. And no one should fear walking in their neighborhood or driving down the street because of the color of their skin. As Taylor Swift wrote and sang in her song “Only the Young,” “It’s just a matter of time / Up there’s the finish line.” Let’s make our generation the one that ends the gun-violence epidemic.
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