To the Editor:
You ask why we want gun control. What our definition of ‘reasonable’ is. What this will mean for all of the other gun owners, the ones with licenses and safes and use their guns for hunting and sport. I’ve got plenty of questions for you, but I’ll save them for the end.
We want gun control because a gun is a tool, an instrument, yes, but it is a weapon. It is designed to kill. When you pull the trigger, you are triggering (yes. This is where the name comes from.) an explosion that then propels a projectile out of the barrel of the gun. These projectiles fly at an average speed of 2,500 feet per second (which is around 1,700 miles per hour.) Putting that in perspective, an F-16’s speed at the maximum altitude of 9.32 miles is 1,500 miles per hour. The speed of sound in air is 767 miles per hour. We require the people who fly these planes to be extensively trained, scrutinized, and tested. We require them to have background checks and mental fitness tests. In 2017, 170 people were killed from military aircraft accidents involving planes like the one mentioned above from around the world. Let me make this clear: 170 people were killed in total around the entire world in 2017 from military aircraft accidents or incidents. The Gun Violence Archive is an “independent data collection and research group with no affiliation with any advocacy organization.”According to the Gun Violence Archive, in 2017 there were 15,593 deaths from guns and another 31,185 were injured IN THE UNITED STATES ALONE.
In Florida, the only requirement for owning a gun is that you be 18 years old. You do not need a permit to purchase a gun. You do not need to register a firearm- in fact, it is ILLEGAL for any person to. “Florida prohibits the knowing or willful keeping of any list, record or registry of privately owned firearms or their owners.” The only thing you need a permit for is to carry a concealed handgun. To be fair, there is a three-day waiting period before purchasing a handgun. Criminal background checks are allowed but not required in 62 of the 67 counties in Florida. “The Florida Constitution, Art VIII Sec. 5(b), permits counties to enact ordinances that require a criminal history records check and a 3 to 5-day waiting period when any part of a firearm sale is conducted on property to which the public has the “right of access”, such as at a gun show conducted on public property. These local option ordinances may not be applied to holders of a concealed weapons permit/license. Only Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Hillsborough, and Volusia counties have enacted such ordinances.”
The Air Force requirements to QUALIFY to be a pilot of the planes mentioned above are much more stringent:
Knowledge of theory of flight, air navigation, meteorology, flying directives, aircraft operating procedures and mission tactics [This means taking a five-hour, 380-question test] Completion of Air Force Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training [12 weeks of rigorous physical training, high standards of conduct, and field leadership exercises] Completion of a Single Scope Background Investigation (SSBI) [This involves speaking to family and friends, coworkers, and thorough examination of their life] Additional requirements specific to specialty
Completion of Officer Training School (OTS), Air Force Academy (AFA) or Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC)
Must have begun pilot training between the ages of 18 and 29”
“But flying a plane and shooting a gun have nothing else in common.”
Okay. Let’s talk about things that are harder to get than guns.
When you buy cold medicine like Sudafed, Mucinex-D, and Zyrtec-D, you not only have to show identification to establish that you are over the age of 18, but the purchase is logged in a database and personal information is kept about you for AT LEAST two years. There is also a regulation on how much of these drugs you can buy- no more than nine grams in thirty days. These regulations are imposed because of the active ingredient in these kinds of medicine, pseudoephrine. This is the same ingredient used in crystal meth.
In 2015, the CDC released new statistics on drug consumption. This is the most recent data, and it states that around 4,500 people died from methamphetamine overdose in 2015. That same year, 13,516 people died as the result of a gun. These statistics are for all methamphetamines, not just crystal meth.
“It’s regulated because of all of the people using it.”
Okay. Let’s go back to crystal meth. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime says that 24.7 million people abuse crystal meth. It doesn’t specify whether that is in the United States or in the world, but it doesn’t matter too much because of this next statistic.
There are over 300 million guns in the United States.
Another example. It is harder to ADOPT A PUPPY than it is to buy a gun in Florida. “Prospective adopters must be 21, bring two forms of identification — a government-issued ID and a proof of address — but, unlike gun buyers, may be asked to provide personal references. To make sure that the pet is not going to a dysfunctional home, some pet organizations like the Big Dog Ranch Rescue in Wellington, Fla., also have one of their team members perform a home visit before handing over the pet.”
We’ve already been through how easy it is to buy a gun in Florida. Let’s look at other states.
California is known for having very strict gun laws. To purchase a gun (which must be done through a dealer and must be a “California legal” firearm), a customer must apply through the California Department of Justice, provide proof of residency, the dealer must conduct a background check, and then go through a ten day waiting period after purchase before actually being able to own the gun. In private transfers, in which the person providing the gun is a licensed dealer in the state of California, the party must complete both a Private Party Transfer form and the dealer submits a Dealer’s Record of Sales form. The ten day period is still intact. All handgun purchasers (excluding private party transfers and Certificate of Eligibility holders) are limited to one handgun purchase per 30 days. To buy a handgun, the party must have a Firearm Safety Certificate, which is obtained through taking a written test proctored by a DOJ instructor and is valid for only five years. They must also perform a Safe Handling Demonstration. The FSC requirement applies to all firearms. If a party wants to buy a gun in Nevada and bring it back to California, they would have to go through a registered Federal Firearms License who would ship it to another Federal Firearms License in California, who would then complete the Dealer’s Record of Sales form and the ten day period is intact. This doesn’t nearly cover all of California’s gun laws, but you get the idea.
California is number eight on the CDC’s index of firearm mortalities from 2016. Florida is number 25. While California had more deaths total, Florida had more deaths per person. California had 7.9. Florida had 12.6. With a higher population, higher percentage of immigrants (29% vs. 19.5% in 2014), and cities known for violence, California had less deaths from firearms per person. Because of their gun laws. Because of the laws the state has imposed on its citizens.
Ask for my sources. I’ll give them to you. And if you see something that you know to be incorrect, please tell me. I’m open to changing my opinion. But these are the facts that I have checked and double checked and that I believe to be true and accurate. You can scream “Fake News” all you want. You can say that I can’t possibly be able to form this opinion on my own, that I’m being paid to do this, that I am an actor. You can doubt that my opinion should be broadcast to the media because I’m seventeen, I haven’t graduated high school, I don’t have my college degree, I don’t have enough experience to have an opinion. You’re wrong.
I have the experience of waking up 1,000 miles away from my little brother to find out that his school was on lockdown because of a threat made by a seventeen-year-old boy with a violent streak. I have the experience of learning that there’s a rumor going around my old high school that someone has a hit list in their backpack and calling the school myself to make sure it wasn’t true, that my friends were safe, that my family was safe. I have the experience of checking the news the days after both of these threats to find headlines of local newspapers talking about a new restaurant that opened and the comic convention that’s coming into town. I have the experience of people asking me if I’m okay, if I knew anyone at Parkland, how close my house is to the school, how I’m holding up and do I need to leave class to take a mental health day?
What I haven’t gone through? The things that Cameron Kasky, Emma Gonzalez, Sarah Chadwick, David Hogg, and all of the survivors of the shooting that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. I haven’t had to hide in a classroom from a CHILD with a deadly weapon used by our own military to fight wars. I haven’t had to pray to whatever God exists for mercy, for this to please end, for whatever is happening to stop because I’m scared. I have, however been through my own trauma. And I can tell you that these children that you’re trying SO HARD to ignore will not go away because when we’ve been hurt, when we’re scared and determined and frustrated with the people who are supposed to know more than we do we will never give up on changing something we know is wrong.
We aren’t children anymore.
When you’re mistaken for a shooter and arrested and your thoughts go to the people you could have saved, you’ve lost your childhood.
When you see your friend shot by a military-grade weapon and you have to stay quiet so that you won’t be next, you’ve lost your childhood.
When a gunman is storming your school and you’re crying silently and hiding and praying, you’ve lost your childhood.
No one should have to.
Our gun laws were written over 200 years ago, when the guns didn’t shoot 400 rounds per minute, when ammunition wasn’t easy to reload, when we didn’t have what we have now. I believe that the citizens should have the right to protect themselves from a tyrannical government. I do not believe that guns should be outlawed completely. I believe that our gun situation today is out of hand because we have more guns than we have people, because so far, in 2018, we’ve had 18 active school shootings, because the people or gun debate is still on the table. We need restrictions.
I’m going to be able to vote in November. A lot of the survivors of the shootings will be. You can bet that I’ll be rallying and campaigning and doing my best to reform the laws in this country because right now they aren’t protecting us.
I said I had questions for you. Here they are. Do not mistake them as sarcastic.
How many more will it take? How many more dead children, dead students, dead teachers will it take before you relent? How many more ‘mentally disturbed’ terrorists will it take for you to decide that enough is enough? When will you realize that yes, it partially is a gun problem?
I’m not denying that there is definitely a component to these shootings that doesn’t come from guns. The people who carry these out are mentally ill. But the arguments that says it’s on the parents for not raising their children properly, the arguments that say it’s about morals, it’s about the lack of God in our government, those arguments are ridiculous. It’s about the lack of mental health care available in this country. That’s another argument. I’ll have that one another time.
The children are leading this movement. Do you realize how ridiculous that is?
I do. And I’m standing with those same kids who, last week, were scared for their lives because a maniac who was known to be mentally disturbed and mentally ill was allowed to purchase a military grade assault rifle. You don’t have to agree with me. You don’t have to like me. It won’t matter what you feel towards me because this is bigger than a single person, a single issue, or a single shooting.
Freshman, University of Iowa