By Camryn Gordon, a junior at Pepperdine University
It’s been more than 20 years since Congress funded research into gun violence prevention.
This past May, I turned 20 years old.
Gun violence hasn’t shaped just my generation alone. It’s an epidemic that has impacted American communities for decades — and it urgently needs to be studied.
I was born in 1999, 13 days after the Columbine massacre — a single event that marked the beginning of an era no one saw coming.
I was 8 years old when my first memory of a mass shooting formed. I was 8 years old when a gunman opened fire at Virginia Tech and murdered 33 people. That following school year, my elementary school shifted from teaching us earthquake drills to teaching us how to stay silent in the case of a mass shooter. I was 9 years old.
Since 2007, the tragedies at Fort Hood, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Isla Vista, Charleston, Umpqua, San Bernardino, Pulse, Las Vegas, Parkland, Tree of Life, Thousand Oaks, and many others replicated the horrors of Columbine and Virginia Tech.
As a young person who watched these deadly events unfold in classrooms, theaters, places of worship, concerts, shopping centers, and workplaces, I’ve often felt terrified that I could be next. Part of what’s been dubbed “Generation Lockdown,” I’ve grown up normalizing, accepting, and knowing the threat of gun violence.
With every mass shooting, my schools slowly enhanced security by adding armed police officers, weekly lockdown drills, and barricading us behind steel gates. However, none of these measures made me feel safer. Instead, I was constantly reminded by the uncertainty of murder. I was reminded that the best we could do was armed guards and steel gates. I was reminded that students wearing hoods and backpacks were possible threats. And I was reminded that gun violence was not only being accepted by me, but by our entire country.
These thoughts are not normal. Consistently going about life with the threat of being shot and killed is not normal. The mental and emotional effects of fear are a result of watching mass shootings consistently consume communities for 20 years. The anxiety, PTSD, and depression that comes from gun violence affect not only survivors or the families of survivors but also everyone who watches as the media regurgitates every single traumatic detail of mass murder.
Every year 35,000 people in the U.S. are killed by guns. However, without evidence-based research, there’s so much #WeNeedToKnow in order to identify and invest in solutions.
Recently, I had the opportunity to stand beside several members of Congress as they addressed gun violence for what it truly is: a public health crisis, an underfunded and underresearched crisis.
Gun violence is a contagion of death that takes the lives of 100 people in the U.S. each day. It is a disease that has overtaken communities across the country for far too long. Gun violence is not a political issue, it is an issue of humanity — and it has changed the way my generation lives.
Standing beside members of the House, I heard harrowing personal stories and shocking statistics. As I looked around the room at my fellow Team ENOUGH and Brady members, and my new friends at March For Our Lives, I saw a generation of young people saying #ENOUGH.
On June 19, the House voted and passed this landmark funding bill. I am now calling on the Senate to bring it to a vote immediately.
We have lived not knowing the true health consequences of gun violence for far too long. Never again will I wait for someone else to advocate for me. Never again will I sit idly by while people every day are killed by gun violence. Never again will the inaction of the government determine who lives and who dies.
Inaction is not an answer, and right now we need answers.
It’s time for Congress to dedicate funds to the CDC for gun violence research — it is time for Congress to treat this epidemic like the health crisis it is. Join me in urging our senators to act.