A Key Solution to Gun Violence Is Sitting on a Desk in the U.S. Senate

We are both survivors of mass shootings.

Four years and 140 days apart, on Valentine’s Day in Parkland and Independence Day in Highland Park, gunmen disrupted what should have been days of carnation grams and family barbecues, killing a combined 24 of our classmates, neighbors, and friends.

Our hometown communities suffered, and continue to suffer, distinctly at the same hands. Because the guns that terrorized both Parkland and Highland Park were assault weapons.

The fact that we — two young women whose lives have been forever warped by gun violence — are writing this piece together is not a coincidence. It’s cause and effect. Because if our elected officials had chosen to act after Parkland in 2018, the seven people killed in Highland Park this past July might still be here.

While our legislators cower, our communities act. In Tallahassee and Springfield, in houses of worship and on the streets, we’ve found courage in the bleakest of moments. Courage is a group of Parkland students successfully lobbying Florida lawmakers to increase the age to purchase a gun from 18 to 21. Courage is Highland Park community members organizing a public rally only days after being targeted in broad daylight. Courage is the five-year-old boy Rachel saw at a rally holding a poster that read: “Am I next?”

We may be “Generation Lockdown,” but we refuse to accept a world where gun violence is normal. Yes, we’ve lived in the shadow of mass shootings, but we’ve continuously marched — and lobbied and phone banked and organized — for our lives.

We’ve done our part.

But our generation cannot be the sole purveyor of hope for our country. March for Our Lives has clearly outlined a plan to reimagine public safety on national, state, and community levels. Amid a haze of “thoughts and prayers,” we worked hard to help pass the first bipartisan gun safety legislation in three decades. The previous bill, passed in 1994, expired 10 years later, before the two of us had even reached the third grade.

In the meantime, the gun violence epidemic has only metastasized. Today, guns are the leading cause of death in American children. As of August 31, there have been over 450 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2022, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

One of the solutions to this problem, to decades of Americans dying in vain, is sitting on a desk in the United States Senate right now: The 2022 Assault Weapons Ban, which has already been passed by the House of Representatives, would make it illegal to sell, manufacture, transfer, possess or import semiautomatic assault weapons.

We know — and so does Congress — that this kind of legislation works. Analysis from The Conversation estimates that under the 1994 ban, the risk of dying in a mass shooting was 70% lower. For 18 years, our elected officials have had the option to resurrect that ban. Instead, they’ve chosen to protect the gun lobby over children.

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