The Politics of Death

by Lisa Sanchez

I just watched what appears to be a man shoot at three people on live television in Virginia. This incident happened around seven a.m. this morning and it was the first thing I read about when I woke up. I feel an utter and impending sense of doom. I don't know anyone in Virginia, I'm not a TV personality, but I did grow up in a generation where random shootings are commonplace. Watching these poor people panicked in the last moments of their lives reminded me of when I was 10 years old and saw the news footage from the Columbine shooting. As I grew older, mass shootings became even more common with Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, the Aurora Theater, Sandy Hook, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and so many more, but that list is already devastatingly long. With each incident, the country and its citizens are forced to examine themselves and ask: "What are we doing wrong?" Well, clearly whatever it is, we're still royally failing.
I do not own guns, I grew up around guns, I have fired a gun, I have had friends and contemporaries that think it is prudent to carry and own guns. With the flurry of incidents that have occurred since 2000 no politician, interest group, or individual (including Charleton Heston) has ever made a convincing argument to keep guns in the public sphere at the expense of thousands of lives. Some advocates argue that if more people had guns, there would be fewer gun deaths, which is like saying if we had more guillotines there would be fewer headaches. In a nation where one third of the population own 300 million firearms you would think there would be more justifiable homicides for self-defense. This year, The Violence Policy Center released a new study stating there were 259 self-defense killings.  Considering the United States has about 1.2 million violent crimes a year, the chances for killing in self-defense seem wide open, but still sits at a ratio of about 1 justifiable homicide for every 33 murders, suicides, or accidental deaths. That ratio doesn't indicate a worthy figure in favor of gun ownership.
We as a nation have proven that we cannot wield guns without someone dying. Whether those situations be intentional, like this tragic situation today with the Virginia news team, accidental, such as the nine year old girl who killed her instructor with an Uzi, or self destructive, considering half of all suicides are committed with firearms. When does it stop? This is a question that has been asked by countless people in numerous situations and we still don't have an answer. Whether you can blame the country's inability to control firearms on our poor educational system, the abysmal way we treat the mentally ill, our political climate, our ignorance, or our tragically short memories, something needs to be done.

As of this writing, there are two people confirmed dead from the unidentified Virginia shooter, Alison Parker, 24 and Adam Ward, 27. These were people with lives and families that loved them and never thought that their lives would be extinguished because of someone else's right to carry a gun. No one has all the answers, but I have a modest proposal: stop making guns so readily available. We need to make them accessible for sport and shooting ranges only, we need more extensive background checks, we need the fucking minority report if that's what it takes to lower the gun death numbers. Everyone has the right to protect themselves, including people who want to defend themselves from gun-toting citizens. This is not a war that can be won; it is a standoff that needs absolution. There are responsible gun owners out there, but if they are truly responsible they will realize that their hobby is hurting someone they don't even know and will never meet. Guns are making me a soldier in a war I never wanted to fight. I will not die for your whims. I am not a fighter. I am a human being.