Emilie Woods, ‘16
Over the past two months, the United States has been coping with the aftermath of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14th, 2012. While the families of the victims are still reeling, gun violence atrocities continue to occur. A little over a month later, on January 29th, 15 year old Hadiya Pendleton was gunned down and killed after school in a Chicago park. Still healing from Newtown, episodes of more young people killed by guns are a horror to our country; the prevalence of gun violence in the past few months has made our nation sick with grief. Gun violence in the United States is clearly not a new threat, but when children become its victims time and time again, the issue becomes more visible.
On January 16th, 2013, President Obama proposed 23 executive actions on gun control. His plan consists of taking measures to improve our background check system, prohibiting military-style assault weapons and high capacity magazines, improving the safety of our schools, and making mental health services more accessible to the public. He called on Congress to act to put these measures up for a vote immediately. The only way that gun control in the United States can be improved is if Congress does its part. In his speech he stated, “In the month since 20 precious children and six brave adults were violently taken from us at Sandy Hook Elementary, more than 900 of our fellow Americans have reportedly died at the end of a gun — 900 in the past month.” These 900 people do not include Hadiya Pendleton, as his speech was made just days before her death. These numbers make it clear that the safety of our nation’s children is at high risk, and we as citizens must take action to ensure that our representatives understand that risk.
At his State of the Union address on February 12th, Obama pleaded with Congress saying, “Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence. They deserve a vote… The families of Newtown deserve a vote… The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence – they deserve a simple vote.” At these words, the audience—both Democrats and Republicans—erupted into an emotional applause, some cheering, others with tears in their eyes. The President had made it clear to both parties that idleness from Congress on this issue will no longer be tolerated.
Despite the seemingly impossible task of reform ahead and the inevitable conflicts that will arise, we still have a job to do. President Obama’s plan is not merely political. When dealing with the lives of children, all measures necessary to ensure their safety must be taken, and that is why the President continues to push for serious changes to our gun control system. With the deliberate action of our people and Congress, the United States can become a place where children feel safe, and where gun violence does not constantly wrack us with guilt.