Students across the nation react to the recent shootings in Atlanta, Ga., and Boulder, Colo., analyzing the root of these tragedies and offering insight on how to address gun violence in the U.S.
Abigayle Post, a Simmons University student from Golden, Colo., who is majoring in sociology and philosophy recalled her experience when the shooting in Boulder occurred.
“I remember I was standing in the kitchen and my roommates said there was a mass shooting in Boulder,” Post said. “I watched the press conference, the first one, and while I was sitting there, I was thinking ‘What if I know one of these people?’”
Emmy Adams, a special education major at the University of Northern Colorado, had a similar reaction to Post.
“It’s just crazy,” Adams said. “It’s like maybe the grocery store was the one thing we were missing. We had everything else. We had a movie theater, we had a high school, middle school, we had a Planned Parenthood, we have had shootings at so many different places. The grocery store was still safe but now it’s not anymore.”
Post said that gun violence has become incredibly normalized in this country, especially for states and communities who have faced a lot of it.
“Oh, another mass shooting in Colorado? That’s a Tuesday,” Post said.
These recent tragedies have brought up questions of where this issue originates, why it continues to happen, and why people continue to feel numb to it.
Colin Wagner, a student majoring in strategic political communications at Drake University, offered his perspective.
“I think that the fact that we’re becoming used to it, or at least I’m becoming used to it, points to a systemic problem,” Wagner said. “It’s a problem that needs to be talked about and it needs to be fixed.”
Wagner said he has a unique background coming from South City in St. Louis, Mo., a community where there’s a lot of gun violence, gangs and shootings.
“One time my family and I were coming back from a vacation,” Wagner said. “Our front door was cracked open just a little bit and there was a bullet on our front porch, like a bullet with the casing and everything upright on our front porch. Nothing ever happened after it but I remember seeing my parents afraid. I was still young but I remember seeing the fear in my parents’ eyes and it was just shocking as a kid to see that.”
Adams has spent significant time advocating for an end to gun violence. She said that it’s been exactly three years since she was involved in A March for Our Lives in Denver, protesting in support of gun control legislation.
“In 2018, I helped start and organize efforts around Jeffco for gun violence,” Adams said. “We worked on trying to pass different legislative forward, we worked on registering people to vote, just talking to people about gun violence prevention. I helped start the Jeffco Students Demand Action chapter and then I helped start the A Vote for Our Lives campaign where we had this massive rally at Clement Park in Littleton and we flew like 60 survivors from the Parkland shooting out and we had a Celebration of Life and unity of survivors coming together.”
Sophie Christensen, a Drake student majoring in strategic political communications and public relations, comes from a similar background.
“I went to the March for Our Lives in St. Paul in Minneapolis and I led a social justice thing in my youth group at church about gun reform and how we can be servant leaders in our community and deal with that,” Christensen said. “We went to the national march as a group for that and then I led a walk out at my school and then sent out information about resources and how you can advocate and write letters to your representatives.”
Wagner has theories as to why change still hasn’t occurred, despite efforts of advocates like Adams and Christensen. He adheres to his initial statement of it being a systemic, cultural problem.
“Without agreement on all sides, it’s going to be such an incredibly uphill battle,” Wagner said. “I mean, you can see that right now. We’ve tried several times now to get things done, like government has tried to get things done about this, after the shootings, trying to prevent ones in the future, but then this culture comes in and brings up these same points, and there’s a disconnect and nobody’s willing to work with the other side, they’re not willing to really communicate other than just voicing their objection and moving on. I think if the culture does change, then we can better come to an agreement.”
Many people remain fearful in this country due to a lack of regulation on firearms.
“Both of my parents served in the military, and my dad’s specialty was artillery, so I have the unique perspective working with someone who has worked with a full range of guns, including assault rifles,” Christensen said. “The one purpose of them is to kill people so that really continues my strong belief that we should not have those out for public use.”
Wagner and Post both agree.
“Currently, you can buy assault rifles,” Wagner said. “No one’s going hunting with an assault rifle. That’s a little crazy. You aren’t going hunting with a grenade launcher. I mean, really, that’s not something you need for that situation so I think, to summarize, I think that there’s a time and a place but I think we’ve gone a little too far with the guns.”
Post elaborates on the danger of having regular civilians be able to access something as deadly as an AR-15.
“You don’t need an AR-15. You don’t have a use for it,” Post said. “There’s not a tangible thing you can do with it. You can protect your home with a handgun, you can hunt with a rifle, a semiautomatic weapon isn’t doing you any good and the reality is that those weapons were made to kill. That is their design, that is their function, that is their purpose.”
In response to these concerns, some have clear cut ideas of legislative actions which should be taken.
“What I would like to see happen is on a national scale universal background checks, red flag laws and a magazine capacity limit,” Adams said.
But, beyond that, conversation needs to be had.
“We need to have the tough conversations that connect the problem of gun violence and gun rates,” Adams said. “I think connecting the conversation and making it personal. That involves sharing the stories of the people lost and making people realize, ‘That person is just like my aunt, that person is just like my best friend.’ They need to realize it matters.”
Wagner suggests that we continue to share the stories of victims and keep the momentum going in highlighting these tragedies.
More than anything, any kind of involvement will help fight for the cause. Christensen sums up a single individual’s abilities.
“If you are interested in a subject and you want to see change, you can make a difference,” Christensen said. “That’s one of my favorite things about politics and government is that even the smallest person can make a difference.”