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Gun control: A waiting game?

Gun violence should be shocking. Gun violence should rile up unimaginable levels of fear, terror and pain. Gun violence should be so intolerable to our society that we enact laws to try to prevent it from ever happening again.


But I don’t feel that way anymore. When news broke of the shooting at Oregon's Umpqua Community College, I was sitting in Cafe Vivian, eating sushi and waiting for my last class of the week. As I opened my laptop, I saw The New York Times headline that some school shooting had occurred somewhere.

I felt fear, realizing that the victims were probably completely unaware of the fate that was about to befall them. But I felt not so much than when a man had opened fire at a movie theater in Lafayette, La., this past summer, killing two and injuring nine. Lafayette is a city only two hours away from home and one hour away from Louisiana State University, which some of my best friends attend.

I felt terror, but not so much as when young white supremacist Dylann Roof murdered nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church — people who had been seeking the love and comfort of the church.

And I felt pain, though I cannot say how much, when I remember Sandy Hook and heard about the massacre of 20 innocent children and their teachers.

These emotions are real, but they have become all too familiar. In President Obama’s 15th address in regards to a mass shooting, Obama expressed similar feelings — sentiments of grief and anger. But he had admitted something far most devastating that I had been afraid to admit to myself earlier — a numbness that has crept into all of our hearts, as these shootings steadily became common incidences.

Yet what is even more devastating to me is not the mass shootings, but rather the gun violence that happens in multiple forms every day across this country.


We see it when stray bullets take the lives of our children, just because they happened to be walking home at the wrong time. We see it when American guns help fuel Mexican violence, with weapons “often bought in the U.S. through ‘straw man’ purchases, who acquire arms on behalf of others with the intention of being trafficked to Mexico.” We see it when people succeed in taking their lives 85 percent of the time when guns are used, a much higher statistic than when other methods are used.

I understand how easy it is to push off the responsibility of these massacres, by legislators and responsible gun owners alike. Many see the harm in the individual and not the tool used to commit these horrific acts; coming from the South, many of my classmates and neighbors fall into the latter category. I know when hunting season had begun by the change of profile pictures. I’ve seen camouflage vests worn to prom. I’ve driven behind cars with National Rifle Association bumper stickers saying, “It’s not the guns, it’s the criminals, STUPID.”

I cannot blame them for feeling that way. There are thousands of Americans who use guns responsibly every day. But it is not black and white. Strongly favoring gun rights does not mean that we just shrug our shoulders every time one of these tragedies happen.

Just this past Friday, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush was asked about his views on the Second Amendment in light of this tragedy. His response? “Stuff happens.” He cautioned that, in the light of a crisis, there is always the fear of overreacting, that “the impulse is to do something, and it’s not always the right thing to do.”

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I do not necessarily disagree with the sentiment. Laws fueled on emotion, laws that are not well thought out, can carry unintended consequences. The presence of new legislation, in and of itself, is not necessarily the solution. And we should be cautious when new laws may conflict with already existing constitutional rights.

But I am wary of this frequent Republican response to just wait. From Newtown to Aurora to Charleston to Lafayette, we wait so long that citizens forget the raw emotion that these tragedies initially brought, and why they necessitate new policies. They fade from the forefront, merging together, slowly becoming just a statistic. But we have to fight this feeling. We cannot forget when these incidences literally occur on a daily basis.

I find that laws are created through two central avenues — through the potential threat of something in the future, or to address a threat that has occurred. Gun violence has fulfilled both. It has taken thousands of lives in the past. And I have no doubt that, if unaddressed, gun violence will continue to do so in the future.

Having to carefully balance rights should not be a roadblock to progress. Until such legislation is made, the extraordinary will remain everyday. I will almost unknowingly take note of movie theater exits. And I will continue to reassure my parents that I am safe, despite my safety being out of my hands.

Lea Trusty is a politics major from Saint Rose, La. She can be reached at