Resolute Square

GOP Fears NRA, Gen Z Fears Shootings

Active shooter drills and murdered peers shaped a generation. Victor Shi writes that politically-powerful Gen Z demands change.
Published:November 29, 2022

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Earlier this year, more than 600 children left home—ready for another day at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. With two days until summer break, the excitement and anticipation of having no more homework surely ran high. However, the thrill students felt at the beginning of the school day quickly turned into fear when an eighteen-year-old entered their school and opened fire. Twenty-one people were killed, two adults and 19 young children. 

This summer, hundreds of people participated in a Fourth of July Parade in Highland Park, Illinois. Parents brought their children to an event that was supposed to be one of the highlights of the summer — a parade that unified the community. But just 15 minutes after the parade started, a gunman opened fire, killing seven people and wounding nearly 50 more. 

A little more than a week ago, our nation experienced yet another mass shooting, this time at Glub Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Club Q was a place where the LGBTQ+ community could gather and freely dance, sing, and perform. Against the backdrop of increasing anti-gay rhetoric and hate from America’s political right—even by Colorado's own elected official Rep. Lauren Boebert—Club Q offered a feeling of home and comfort for the LGBTQ+ community. But just before midnight on Saturday, November 19, a man with a long gun entered and killed five people, injuring 25 others. 

And not even three full days after the Colorado Springs shooting, America’s next mass shooting happened. This time in Virginia. As community members shopped for last-minute Thanksgiving items or groceries, a Walmart manager opened fire, leaving six people dead. 

As horrific as this loss of life is, these mass shootings don’t begin to scratch the surface of the total mass shootings that have occurred in 2022 alone. Based on data compiled by the Gun Violence Archive, there have been more than 600 mass shootings and more than 3,100 victims of mass shootings as of November 22nd. If this pace of mass shootings continues, 2022 is on track to be the second-highest year of mass shootings in history. 

Given the number of mass shootings in America, it is easy to feel powerless. It’s easy to feel hopeless. Worse still, it’s easy to feel numb. I understand this. Indeed, I am a part of a generation that grew up with mass shooter drills being a regular part of our school because my generation has experienced mass shootings happening all too frequently at schools. I am a part of a generation that lives in constant fear about when the next mass shooting will occur. 

Even against this backdrop, however, we can’t allow ourselves to feel defeated. Every time we read the latest headline about another mass shooting or statistic showing the magnitude of gun violence in America, we must remember that the victims of gun violence could very well be us or those we love. They could be your sons. They could be your daughters. They could be your parents. They could be your neighbors. And that very thought—actively imagining that what happened in Uvalde, Highland Park, Colorado, or Virginia could happen to us—should fuel us with the anger, outrage, and frustration necessary to take action and call on our elected officials to finally pass bold gun reform legislation. 

Because here’s the reality: our nation’s gun violence epidemic falls squarely on the shoulders of Republican elected officials who have had countless opportunities to vote for meaningful gun reform legislation but refused to do so. And while earlier this year, Congress passed the Safer Communities Act, which enacted some gun reform laws—including support for state crisis intervention centers and an enhanced process for gun purchasers under the age of 21—not only did the vast majority of Republicans vote against it, but the bill was the bare minimum. It was a minuscule step in the right direction, but not nearly enough. 
In a nation where gun violence runs rampant, we must address the root of the issue head-on: the guns. Lest anyone asserts that the problem isn’t guns, consider the fact that there is a strong correlation between the states that have the strictest gun laws and the states that have the fewest number of deaths per capita. Additionally, the U.S. has a gun murder rate that is more than 20 times higher compared to other peer nations. 

To be sure, enacting stricter gun laws won’t take away one’s second amendment rights, nor will it eliminate all mass shootings. But what doing things like banning all military-style weapons and creating an enhanced nationwide background check system would do is dramatically reduce the chances of mass shootings. 

Time is running short for Congress to act, though — especially given that the next session of Congress, with a Republican majority in the House of Representatives, will take over days after the new year. Currently, two bills have passed the House and are sitting before the Senate. The first would expand background checks for guns purchased through the internet, at gun shows, and in private transactions. The second would require authorities to conduct a federal background check before distributing any gun. These are steps the American people strongly support. Polling reveals nearly 90% of people support background checks for all gun purchases. 

But, as always, the biggest challenge won’t be getting Democrats to support the bill. It’s finding enough Republican support. For a party that has constantly caved to the interests of NRA lobbyists and the gun industry, it seems unlikely that a majority of Republicans will vote for such a bill. With mere weeks until the Democrats no longer control both chambers, now is the time to bring both bills — along with a federal assault weapons ban — to the floor for a vote. 

With children’s lives on the line, Democrats must wield power while they still have it and work around the clock to get gun reform legislation passed and on President Biden’s desk. And if Republicans ultimately decide that the lives of children are not worth more than their NRA contributions, and should Republicans block common-sense gun reform from passing, Democrats must either amend or eliminate the filibuster. 

Beyond the federal level, Democrats on state and local levels must use every lever of power to ensure no community ever experiences the tragedies that hit Uvalde, Parkland, Newtown, and countless others across the country again. After all, one great development from the last midterm election is that there are now more states with both Democrat-controlled state legislature and governorship. It is those states that can pass bold gun safety legislation. 

And far from being powerless, we, as voters, must elect representatives who will stand up against the gun lobby and protect our lives. We must pay attention to what our elected representatives do and understand the power we bring to the ballot box. As races like Colorado’s Third District between Lauren Boebert and Adam Frisch demonstrated, every vote matters — and we all can elect representatives who, at a bare minimum, will protect our and our children’s lives. 

Growing up in an era of constant mass shootings, my generation has had enough inaction and hollow promises. Either elected officials will take action and finally find a path toward enacting life-saving legislation, or Gen Z will replace them with people who will. Time is ticking—and our lives depend on it.