Opinion: When our hearts go numb, we must inflame them with anger

gun control
Anissa Basnayake/The Occidental

“The pen is mightier than the sword,” Edward Bulwer-Lytton brilliantly wrote in 1839. Of course, it is empowering to believe that words can triumph in a battle over violence. But no words have proven to be stronger than the Arms inked in the Second Amendment. Without fail, our mighty guns have taken the lives of 44,303 people in the last year alone, despite the routine words of sorrow and loss. We have become desensitized to our nation’s inhumane, frequent mass shootings. We have grown blind to the blood-stained hands of our representatives in Congress.

I find that my words have stopped being hopeful, surprised or angry. The ink has long been dried out, and my pen has stopped moving. I am exhausted from years of hiding in classroom corners during routine lockdowns while other kids’ school shooter drills became a horrifying reality just a few states over. In the land of the free and the home of the brave, we are locked in classrooms while cowards shoot up night clubs and dance studios.

Unlike Bulwer-Lytton’s optimistic belief in the power of words, the only word I find myself using lately is “hopeless.” Hopelessness adequately encompasses my unorganized thoughts regarding our country’s unique and raging gun violence epidemic. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy described the accumulation of these tragedies as an epidemic: a large number of people dying due to preventable reasons, constituting a public health crisis.

Certainly, there is tangible hope; last year, the country’s first significant gun reform was signed into law: The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which allocates millions of dollars for crisis intervention and mental health programs, funds “red flag” laws and strengthens background checks. But, as the mass shooting count grows almost daily, I grapple with Dr. Murthy’s use of the word “preventable” when discussing our country’s gun violence. Despite these constructive changes, California has seen seven mass shootings this January alone. As more children, teachers, shoppers, students and workers die, I increasingly lose hope in my representatives in Congress and my neighbors as U.S. citizens. Is it fair to call gun violence “preventable” when there arehundreds of millions of guns in circulation today — how susceptible are these arms to changes in policy? Even if we implement even stricter background checks, will that prevent a 6-year-old child from taking his parent’s gun to school and shooting his teacher?

As much as they occupy my mind and heart, hopeless words are useless. Quite frankly, sometimes I believe sorrow is too; we can’t afford to waste time shedding tears — have our tears not yet been dried out in these 10 unthinkable years since a gunman stole the lives of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School? Last year, fourth grader Miah Cerrillo testified before the House Oversight Committee, where she recalled smearing her classmate’s blood on her to play dead after witnessing her teacher get shot in the head and her classmates being murdered. Instead of wasting time merely pondering Cerillo’s tragic story, our tears must be used as a fuel of action to ensure this will never happen to another fourth grader again.

As citizens of the country that has the most mass shootings (despite holding five percent of the world’s population), I beg of you: be angry. Hopelessness is obstructive and sadness can be painfully futile. Grief is a necessary and important step after loss, but it cannot be the last one. America has a horrific abundance of devastating, gun-related tragedies and we have become numb to it; we need to be blinded by rage. Tears bring with them despair and surrender — anger fuels urgency and action. We cannot become complacent with what solutions are at hand. Every time a bullet is senselessly fired and an innocent life is lost, it should shake you to your core.

My pen is not yet as sharp as a sword, but with all the ink I have I want to leave you with this: gun violence should make your blood boil. It should evoke hot tears in your eyes, send chills down your spine, make your stomach queasy and leave your heart broken. In 2022, we lost the lives of 314 children to gun violence — children who will never have the chance to reach middle school. I should not be worried about my younger siblings surviving the place they go to learn and make friends. These 314 deaths should make you furious. But only about half of Americans — 48 percent — view gun violence as “a very big problem” in the country. Has the other half become numb to this perpetual nightmare?

America has led us to believe that gun violence is a natural occurrence — we should never surrender to this notion. This epidemic is urgent and catastrophic, and the fight to end it must be fueled by the anger accumulated by tragedies and the constant failure to respond. It’s a battle that cannot be won by simple, empty words, but by the revolutionary act to feel angered and disgusted by the shortcomings of our country.

Contact Emma Cho echo2@oxy.edu.


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