WASHINGTON, D.C. — I’m shaken and confused, unnerved and overwhelmed. My emotions are running wild like a child recognizing his ability to run, fast and fearless, for the first time. It is the feeling that arises when I turn on the morning news, bleary-eyed and not yet alert, only to discover that another mass shooting has occurred. Millions of people like myself awoke to the tragic news, which began our day with the knowledge of a real-life American horror story.
While a huge fan base awaited the summer premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises,” no one could have imagined the disastrous events that ensued: No one could have foreseen a gunman opening fire in a crowded movie theater. Together as a nation we mourn for the lives taken from the dreadful Colorado shooting. Our hearts are heavy. Our hope for humanity is sauntering on the verge of collapse.
When public spaces — the movies — become targets for arbitrary shootings, as responsible citizens we must question our gun control policies. If only theatergoers had also been armed on that fateful day, maybe they would have been safer (a pro-gun advocates reasoning.) This isn’t the time, Democrats and Republicans have decided, after extending their condolences and prayers to ruined families.
But this is an excuse of the worst kind when the nation is rife with political aspirations and apathy. It’s paralyzing and condemning: holding us hostage to a past we can’t change and preventing us from taking action to change our future. If we don’t get behind stricter gun control by demanding that our representatives take a good look at the direction we are headed, then the shooting sprees will never cease. The number of homicides will only continue to escalate.
I’ve tried to understand and to make sense of gun control policy as is, but the overwhelming images of brutal violence that continue to plague our nation resurface: Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson, Colorado, Wisconsin, Texas A&M, amongst a plethora of arbitrary shootings we will never hear of. Names of many victims will remain unknown — their faces will not repeatedly flash through our minds. We must not continue the ignorance and avoidance of gun control. If now is not the time, when will be the time?
President Barack Obama said he would consider new parameters for gun safety after the 2011 Tucson shooting left representative Gabrielle Giffords with a bullet lodged in her brain. Yet, in the wake of the Colorado disaster there is no mention of improvement. With an election just around the corner, a serious discourse does not appear likely. It is a heavy notion to consider — one with vast implications and uncertain consequences. The madmen will not stop and the bullets being sold and bought won’t either.
As citizens we must make some noise. Challenge conventionality. How many tears shed, hearts shattered and people lost will it take? The rest of the developed world seems to get it. We’re stragglers, the last in perhaps the only race that will ever matter. Time is ticking, and we cannot afford to lose.
A version of this story appeared in the Aug. 26 print edition. Maria Michalos is a staff columnist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org