Enough: We need gun violence prevention legislation now

Jane Harman, from Takoma Park, Md., holds a sign during a Students Demand Action event, near the West Front of the U.S. Capitol
Alex Brandon/Associated Press
Jane Harman, from Takoma Park, Md., holds a sign during a Students Demand Action event, near the West Front of the U.S. Capitol.

I lost important people in my life — including my cousin — to gun violence before the age of 18. While this statement in itself is a tragedy, the bigger tragedy is that this is a reality that far too many Americans can relate to. Each day, more than 110 Americans lose their lives to gun violence, and 110 families’ lives are changed forever. 

A disproportionate number of these lives are in underserved communities of color like mine, in Peoria, Ill. Without the resources or funding that our communities need, these numbers continue to rise and daily shootings become something we are accustomed to. Nobody should grow up with gun violence and the tragedies that result from it as a normal part of their childhood. 

But what the recent mass shootings in Uvalde, Buffalo, and Philadelphia have shown us is that no community is safe from the epidemic of gun violence. It seems that each year, a new generation of school children is being sent to school where they will learn how to protect themselves from a shooter while studying mathematics and history. Until our elected leaders show up and deliver on the gun violence prevention legislation that has been sitting in Congress for years, it will continue to spread into each and every community in the United States. 

While our elected officials feel comfortable in their complacency and acceptance of the status quo, I knew that I had to take action. I refuse to believe that we have to accept this as our reality, which is why I have advocated for change since I lost my cousin in 2017. As a board member of March for Our Lives, I have demanded that lawmakers act to protect people from gun violence and I will continue to do so until these demands are fulfilled. 

I am a member of the generation that will get something done. The trauma we have experienced has made us resilient, and we will not back down until we see the change we know is necessary and we know is possible. For too long, politicians and lobbyists have tried to convince us that there is nothing we can do to solve this crisis. In response to this, we have our own message: fulfill your oath and pass legislation to protect us. 

Youth activists across the country share in this message, which is why we are marching this weekend in more than 400 cities. Survivors of gun violence will be marching in Parkland, Oxford, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. so that wherever our elected leaders are looking they will be forced to acknowledge what their inaction has done. 

When gun violence first affected my life, I was not yet old enough to vote. However, I and many other youth activists in the fight against gun violence have since turned 18 and brought our anger to the ballot box. We will not sit by and let the lawmakers we vote into office ignore our pleas for change. We will harness our power in the streets and at the ballot box to send a reminder to those who put politics ahead of our lives and we will vote them out of office. We will no longer accept campaign promises that go unfulfilled after the election. The time for action is now. The time for gun violence prevention legislation is now.

Mariah Cooley is a board member of the March For Our Lives Foundation.

Tags Buffalo mass shooting David Hogg; Columbine; Parkland; March for Our Lives; Vote for Our Lives gun violence in schools Gun violence in the United States March For Our Lives Philadelphia shooting Politics of the United States Uvalde shooting

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