Like so many others, this past weekend was defined by gun violence. On Thursday, a student murdered two of his classmates at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, CA. On Friday, one adult and two children were shot during the third quarter of a high school football game in Pleasantville, NJ. On Saturday, a man killed his estranged wife and three of their sons in San Diego. The weekend’s youngest victim was three years old. As students, it’s hard for us to know how to move forward. Thoughts and prayers are sent and received; the news cycle finds a new focus; life goes on. But in a country that refuses to protect its citizens, will we ever be able to truly move on?
It’s not like the conditions are going to change anytime soon. Unless Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suddenly decides that he’d like to bring gun control legislation to the Senate floor, we’re stuck until January 2021 at the earliest. It seems that there’s not much we can do but try to prepare for the worst.
It never feels right to move on. The Walmart in El Paso, Texas where 22 people were murdered in August reopened on Thursday and visible changes have been made. The memorial outside, complete with 22 white crosses, has been removed; a new set of security cameras has been installed; automatic security gates are now placed in front of the store’s glass entrances. It’s awkward and it’s uncomfortable, but El Paso needs a supermarket.
How do we move on when the problem lurks around every corner? How do we proceed when the threat still exists? How do we mourn the victims of an everyday tragedy?
Regardless of what change may come, it’s clear that we need to adapt to survive. We can adjust our lives to suit the circumstances — double-check that the classroom doors lock behind us, huddle together in auditoriums and bathrooms during active shooter drills, hire another school guidance counselor — but the circumstances seem to adapt with us. A Santa Clarita teacher was prepared with a gunshot wound kit, but her student had been shot twice. The mother from San Diego was killed by her husband after filing a restraining order against him. They did everything right; they did everything they were supposed to do. There is a point at which we will have done all we can to prepare ourselves for violence, but the violence will still worm its way in.
It became abundantly clear this weekend that adjusting our lives to fit the situation only works to an extent. But adaptation doesn’t always mean adjustment. It seems that if we want the right to live, we need to fight for it.
But we have been fighting. Survivors of the 2018 shooting in Parkland, Florida mobilized students across the U.S. to march, protest and fight for gun safety. Sandy Hook Promise uses shock value to motivate voters toward gun control legislation. Everytown for Gun Safety lobbies McConnell in hopes that he’ll bring legislation to the Senate floor. We are fighting, we have fought and we will fight. But still, nothing has changed — and it doesn’t look like anything will.
It seems simplistic to argue that we deserve the right to live — but most arguments for gun safety seem simplistic. It’s a demand that needs to be made and taken seriously. We have tried to adapt and we have tried to fight. We have tried to survive; time and time again, it did not work. Independent safety measures have been taken; they have never been enough. The only thing we can put our faith in is the slight possibility of effective legislation — which won’t come for at least another year — and at this point, that sounds like a pipe dream. Until then, we’ll keep our heads down, double-check that the classroom doors are locked and hope.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Nov. 18, 2019 print edition. Email the Editorial Board at [email protected]