Nineteen More Children Are Dead. How Do We Take Meaningful Action?

At least 21 people were killed by a gunman in an elementary school in Texas this Tuesday


Ivan Pierre Aguirre for The New York Times

Many families in Uvalde found comfort in prayer as they waited to hear from their loved ones after the shooting.

Quinn Rudnick, Managing Editor

Nineteen elementary school students and two teachers were killed yesterday, May 24, during a mass shooting in Texas.

Salvador Ramos, the 18 year-old gunman, allegedly opened fire on Robb Elementary in the small town of Uvalde, Texas. Ramos was armed with a handgun and possibly a rifle, and was reportedly shot by border patrol forces shortly after the shooting. 

When I first heard the news, I felt shocked but then realized that my shock was useless. Because this happens all the time. In the 145 days of 2022, there have been 212 mass shootings across the country, according to the Gun Violence Archive. But what was really on my mind after scouring the news for updates was what the country should be doing to fix these constant acts of gun violence.

Directly after the shooting, Senator Chuck Schumer, a Democrat representing New York, moved up the time for a vote on background check legislation. Although the legislature is missing ten votes, held by Republican representatives, holding the vote will draw attention to the severity of the shooting, but also force lawmakers to speak about gun legislation.

What Schumer is doing is what the country needs to be doing. We need to keep passing gun regulation laws, we need to keep passing background checks, which would prevent guns being sold to people with past criminal records or other possibly dangerous attributes, we need to keep working to prevent these shootings. 

But aside from passing legislation, keep caring. Keep reading the news, keep listening to people’s stories of heartbreak after a shooting. Keep having a reaction. Don’t let yourself just stop caring because no change is coming, don’t let yourself stop mourning these victims because it doesn’t directly affect you or your community.

American historian Kevin Kruse spoke over Twitter about school shootings and how somebody could be affected by one at any time, whether they expect it or not. 

“At this point in America, it’s no longer a question of if  you’ll be impacted by a mass shooting, it’s just a question of when and how you’ll be impacted by a mass shooting,” Kruse said.

Another thing I believe is vital to preventing more gun violence in the future is voting in the right representatives who will actually work to pass legislation that would limit gun rights in the country. By voting in officials that could actually make a difference, we could take long strides towards the end of gun violence, just by passing legislation to put more regulations on gun purchases and usage. 

Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat representing Connecticut, pleaded with the Senate floor for action to be taken about gun violence.

“What are we doing? Just days after a shooter walked into a grocery store to gun down African American patrons, we have another Sandy Hook on our hands,” Murphy said. “There have been more mass shootings than days in the year.”

What struck me about Murphy’s speech was how he not only referenced the shooting in Uvalde, but the Buffalo grocery store shooting that resulted in the death of 10 African American patrons, as well as the Sandy Hook shooting that happened in early December of 2012. 20 students and six adults were killed. Referencing a recent shooting, as well as the most deadly school shooting in the U.S not only showed how much gun violence really occurs in the country but also tugged at the emotions of Senators on the floor.

Murphy went on to question why the legislature wasn’t doing enough to prevent gun violence, his voice breaking as he spoke about the fear that students experience as a result of these shootings. 

“Our kids are living in fear every time they set foot in a classroom because they think they’re going to be next,” Murphy said. “Why do you spend all this time running for the United States Senate? Why do you go through the hassle of getting this job, of putting yourself in a position of authority? If your answer is as this slaughter increases, as our kids run for their lives, we do nothing? What are we doing? Why are we here?”

Murphy’s targeting of the senators that blatantly do not care about gun violence is exactly what needs to be happening. With more issues than just gun violence, we need to keep questioning who we vote into office. We need to question and fine-tooth these candidates’ backgrounds to make sure they’ll make decisions that can help to prevent shootings like these from happening again.

One thing that bothers me about the reaction to the Uvalde massacre was the lack of support for jumping into the legislative battle from President Joe Biden. Sure, he gave an emotionally rooted speech, mourning for the lost students and teachers, but he blatantly avoided the subject of actually regulating gun usage in the country.

This speech was delivered in unsurprising similarity to presidents past, most notably Donald Trump in 2018 after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, and Bill Clinton in 1999 in reaction to the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colorado. Both of these former presidents gave their condolences to the families that had lost loved ones and spoke about how the shootings were both devastating and wrong. But they didn’t push for preventative legislation in their speeches. 

Our system for dealing with gun violence is flawed and needs so much work. But we can at least make a start by continuing to care about what happens, voting in the correct officials, and keep working for regulation that actually means something.