Kyrah Simon, a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and a survivor of the February 14 shooting, weighs in on the debate around gun reform.
As a survivor of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, gun violence has become personal to me. It was an issue that upset me before, but was too distant from my life to really matter. Now it has taken the life of my friend of over 10 years, Helena Ramsay, and 16 other innocent people. For myself, the only way to move forward is to establish concrete gun reform.
Following the shooting, my community and I personally have struggled to maintain normalcy. My high school has been transformed into a cemetery. The city of Parkland is swarmed by police vehicles and has become the topic of every news headline in the nation.
The attack has garnered insurmountable grief. Speaking for myself and possibly other students, I feel a sense of overwhelming anxiety and sadness returning back to campus. Helena’s empty desk is a reminder that I will never see her again, and it is a painful reality that I am unsure I can accept. This goes for all of the victims: Their absence on campus is simply unbearable.
I initially feared that Parkland would become a tragedy pitied by the American public and then swiftly forgotten. I feared that it would spark a debate that would quickly dissipate. I feared that people would return back to their lives and worry about which celebrity was pregnant, which of their favorite television shows were canceled or what political scandal had surfaced. I believe that this time is different. The nation is expressing its outrage online, and media outlets are placing less attention on the shooter and more on the very issues that must be addressed. I believe that we finally have a captivated audience.
Laws must be put in place to rid our country of these massacres. Florida has one of the most lenient gun laws in the US. Here, it is too easy to get hold of a rifle. At the age of just 19, Nikolas Cruz was able to purchase an AR-15 and take innocent lives with astounding ease. Although he was mentally disturbed, the real issue is how he was able to access such a destructive weapon in the first place. He blasted apart walls and ripped into the flesh of human beings with less than a thought. From Newtown to Orlando and now Parkland, the AR-15 remains the weapon to blame, yet it can still be bought over the counter. Why?
It is because of organizations like the National Rifle Association (NRA) that defend the Second Amendment. Their representatives, such as spokeswoman Dana Loesch, have labeled the shooting as a mental-health issue and any criticism of gun accessibility as a liberal-led attack on their freedoms.
The NRA’s power is intertwined with our government. The pockets of numerous conservative politicians are laced with NRA funds and, in effect, they push for lenient gun laws and drown out the voices of those in opposition. The NRA hand picks politicians and financially supports their campaigns, expecting compensation for their contributions in votes. During the 2016 presidential elections, Donald Trump received over $30 million in NRA contributions, Senator Marco Rubio over $9,000. Similarly, Florida Governor Rick Scott has been a long-time advocate for gun rights and has an A+ rating from the NRA.
I will forever hang on to the belief that as long as I and my fellow classmates use our voices, we will be able to pass stronger gun reforms and ensure that this never happens again. For Helena, for all of the victims and for the children afraid to step foot in school, I will push for a better future.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.