Opinion | Electing a Democrat in 2020 is our best hope for curbing gun violence


Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images/TNS

Students get off buses after being evacuated to the Recreation Center at Northridge after one student was killed and at least eight others were injured during a shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch on May 7 in Highlands Ranch, Colo.

By Julia Kreutzer, Staff Columnist

Two armed students killed one of their peers and injured eight others on May 7 at STEM School Highlands Ranch in Colorado. The school is just less than 10 miles from Columbine High School, where a deadly school shooting in April 1999 sparked modern debates about gun control. Occurring almost exactly 20 years after Columbine, the Highlands Ranch shooting demonstrates that gun violence continues to prove a danger to students and faculty. While deeply disturbing and tragic, this shooting isn’t an anomaly.

This marks the fourth school shooting in Denver alone and the 111th nationwide since 1970, according to The New York Times. Weiyi Cai and Jugal K. Patel of The New York Times describe the Highlands Ranch shooting as simply another example of an alarmingly common phenomenon over the past several decades.

“The attack was … the latest in a decades-long series of violent episodes that have shocked the nation and traumatized generations of students,” Cai and Patel wrote.

Current gun control legislation, or lack thereof, has been insufficient in combating gun violence. The elimination of safety measures under President Donald Trump’s administration regarding gun purchase and use has only exacerbated this issue. This pattern of violence has become recurrent and we have become apathetic bystanders rather than working to actively change this failed system. In order to protect our children and collective morality, further action must be taken by lawmakers in efforts to curb the rate of gun violence. Electing a Democrat in the upcoming 2020 presidential election is America’s chance to take a stance against our gun problem.

In this new generation of senseless school violence, it seems simply surviving high school is just as worthy of celebration as the degree. There have been hundreds of planned attacks in which perpetrators fire indiscriminately in schools. In these attacks alone, at least 202 people have been killed and 454 injured since 1970, according to a New York Times analysis.

Schools like Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Columbine and Sandy Hook are more symbolic of the children who have been murdered than they are institutions of academic success. Former Pitt News columnist Mariam Shalaby expressed this sense of exhaustion and desensitization in a 2015 column, years before Parkland, Highlands Ranch and countless other school shootings occurred.

“I should be sad, but I feel nothing. Nothing but annoyed,” Shalaby said. “I no longer get a wave of shock or a sense of fear, nor do I wonder how such a thing could happen so close to home. Shootings seem normal.”

The frequency and lethality of these attacks has only increased since this column was written. While deeply upsetting, shootings, especially those in schools, are no longer surprising or troubling. We view them as typical.

While the newly elected Democratic House has had some success in passing stronger gun control laws, the Trump administration and Republican-controlled Senate have failed to create tangible change or pass necessary legislation to curb gun violence. Though a single person is not at fault for any of this repetitive gun violence, Trump’s inaction makes him complicit, and his loyalties to the NRA make him an enabler. It’s becoming increasingly evident that if we want gun control, re-electing Trump in 2020 is not the solution. Since it is more likely than not that Trump will be the Republican presidential candidate, it looks like it’s up to the men and women in blue to win the White House and enact change.

Democrats appear not only to collectively understand the necessity of curbing gun violence, but are ready to act on it as well. Peter Ambler, executive director of the gun control advocacy group started by U.S. Representative and mass shooting survivor Gabby Giffords, explains Democrats are more united than ever in combating gun violence.

“I think we are going to see a consistent and sustained legislating on gun safety,” Ambler said. “Guns used to be an issue that divides Democrats and unites Republicans. Now the opposite is true.”

Nearly all of the 2020 Democratic candidates have promoted similar forms of gun control — universal background checks and a ban of assault weapons. Some of these proposed policies not only have support from Democrats, but voters across the aisle as well. A research study conducted by Pew in late 2018 reported that 9 out of 10 Republicans believe that people with certain mental illnesses should be prohibited from purchasing a gun. Over 80% of both party members believe people on the federal no fly list should be barred from purchasing firearms. 91% of Democrats and 79% of Republicans favor background checks.  

In short, Americans want a solution — but not the kind Trump promotes. While issues like health care and abortion continue to divide us, gun control is an issue Americans can unite behind and make a genuine impact on.

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Ca., has committed to take executive action if Congress fails to enact gun control measures within 100 days of her election. Mayor Pete Buttiegieg, a member of Bipartisan Mayors Against Illegal Guns, is a supporter of more rigorous background checks — as are both Beto O’Rourke and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. Former Vice President Joe Biden, who led Former President Barack Obama’s Gun Violence Prevention Task Force in 2012, promoted similar policies. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, advocates for background checks, ending loopholes and banning assault weapons. His website states that he hopes to establish middle-ground legislation that allows gun owners to safely use their weapons without harming other human beings.

With the 2020 election around the corner, this is our chance to choose a candidate who leads the fight for change in gun laws. But in order for the nation to see a collective change in gun violence, the Democratic candidates must continue to advocate for the implementation of effective common sense gun reform and keep it on the forefront of their campaign.

The Trump administration has failed our children in combating the terror caused by gun violence in schools and beyond. It’s time we give new Democratic hopefuls a shot at protecting this generation of desensitized and vulnerable citizens.