Today, I am ashamed to call myself an American.
I will carry this shame with me until the Senate decides to pass a bill that expands background checks on purchasers of guns. Any bill, whether it’s President Obama’s gun control package or the Manchin--Toomey plan. Any bill at all that does anything to atone for the violence and hatred that has been so recently running rampant throughout our country. Anything at all to comfort, however slightly, the heartbroken families of the Sandy Hook victims and the countless others suffering because of loved ones lost to gun violence. But until that day, I am ashamed.
I know there have been compromises proposed by both parties. I will not pretend to be an expert where gun control is concerned. But I do know that President Obama has proposed measures expanding background checks and banning certain military-style weapons. I have no statistics for you, no data that says the number of attacks that would be avoided because of these measures or how many potential murderers will be stopped because of them. If you want this kind of evidence, then my argument is already lost, because I believe that this is not an issue of science or numbers but of human compassion and responsibility. I have no data, only this simple belief--that more background checks would decrease the number of mentally unstable people purchasing guns. Even if it only stops one person, just one person who could have bought that gun but was stopped, then maybe that background check just saved an entire elementary school. To me, this is the same principle as airport security--as American citizens, we are willing to undergo certain inconveniences for the sake of our safety. I will not argue against the right to carry a gun, only against the assumption that everyone has the right to do so. There are bad people in this world.
I hope that you will understand why I feel this way, because I have tried and tried but I still cannot see your point of view. I cannot understand how you can look at these victims, how you can look Gabrielle Giffords in the eyes and say to them, “I want to help.” You said that to them when you chose to serve on the United States Senate. You took a promise, your personal moral values aside, to help the people of this country. Yet in the very room where that hope and promise of the future is supposed to be brought about, by you, you instead turn to these families and say, “I will not help you.” Though to be fair, perhaps in your mental narrative it goes something like this--”You see, I want you help you, but--” And then perhaps you will go on to explain yourself. You might mention the pressures of the National Rifle Association, or were there political factors that were involved in your decision. I only hope, that when you offer some sort of excuse for yourself, you will not embarrass this nation further by claiming that you acted on your own conscience. If that is the case, then my shame is only worsened, because instead of weak-willed political puppets making decisions about my safety, instead I have monsters. Instead I have people who cannot empathize with the suffering of their country.
Before, I was not afraid of guns. I am a sixteen-year-old girl living in the Bay Area of California, a place I believe to be one of the most open-minded and safe places to live. I thought I was removed from the horrible deeds of the world. I didn’t have to worry about getting shot on my way to school. But wasn’t that the same train of thought subconsciously running through the minds of those elementary school children on their way to Sandy Hook? Didn’t they believe they were safe? They didn’t realize it, but they had you to protect them. That is your job. To protect every child who is simply going to school. To protect every single person in this country. They trust you, whether they have learned about our country’s government system or not. They know that there is someone out there looking out for them, someone who can make a difference.
There are bad people in this world. I am old enough to understand that, and I had hoped that you are too. Sometimes, these bad people can’t be reasoned with. There isn’t always a happy ending for their story, and they will go on to do bad things. But we have our government, our lawmakers, and our policemen, actively protecting us against anything that would harm us. There are laws in place regulating unsafe working conditions and laws against murder. These are beautiful things that our country has created, that our government has created. These laws act to protect the most important human right we have--our lives. And we have you to thank for that.
Until today, when suddenly I am very, very afraid of losing that right which I hold dear. Now, I am afraid. It is not because there will be more violence, and it is not because I am now more aware of it. I am afraid because the people I thought would protect me have left me, and I suddenly feel very small.
I’m just a teenager trying to get through my junior year. I don’t really mind blending in with countless other Americans right now. I don’t need to stand out or do important things, because at the moment, I am only responsible for myself, my family, and my friends, and that’s enough. When I am old enough to vote, I will be responsible for my country, and I will take that right more seriously than anything else I have done so far. Because in that small way, I can speak directly to you, a single, tiny voice in a vast crowd, shouting to be heard by you, the people who can make a difference.
Today, my voice is lost. The voice of the nation is lost in that room where you voted today. I don’t know how you drowned out the voices of nearly 90% of our nation, but somehow the sound must not have bothered you enough.
So here I am, bothering you. Do you know how much difference one annoying person can make? Almost as much as an entire country. We will be here, shouting at the top of our lungs. We want to be safe. We want you to be our protectors. That is why we chose you. Now, we just want you to do your job.
Please. Because I just want something to hold onto. Some good people in the world for me to turn to as I grow up and see more bad things, more violence and hatred and evil. People I can trust. People who I know will always, always do their very best to protect my life and my rights, so that I can still feel safe on my way to school.
Will you be that kind of person for me?