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Ten people were killed in Boulder, Colo. last week.
Eight people were killed in Atlanta, Ga. the week before.
These 18 people were attending to their normal activities: working to provide for their families, buying groceries and maybe favorite candies for their little ones. Behind those 18 names were lives filled with excitement, heartbreak, and happiness. Yet, in a matter of seconds, these lives were taken as rounds hit the floor.
Until April 1, Colorado flags will rest at half-staff. As usual, powerful politicians offered thoughts and prayers to the victims of these attacks. I am glad these politicians pray for change and for those who are hurting; I pray too. But these politicians have a power to answer these prayers that I do not have. They have the power to make immediate change. As people of faith, they should know that God does not give us patience or strength, He gives us opportunities to become patient and strong. God does not immediately relieve these shootings, He gives us opportunities to stop these shootings. Yet, as these opportunities are presented, conservative politicians deny them and place lives at risk.
This past week, we are again reminded of the detrimental shortcomings of conservative policy. On March 12, the National Rifle Association blocked an assault rifles ban that likely would have barred the Colorado shooter from purchasing the gun he used to commit a massacre.
To connect a few dots, people are dead because of the NRA.
There are common-sense laws that need to be passed without the corrupt and insidious NRA interference. Many Americans support universal background checks and the elimination of military-grade weapons. Gun policies can’t be determined by special interest groups, but must match the cries of Americans who experience the deadly repercussions. Politicians need to listen to the people. We cannot risk any more American lives for a minority’s deluded belief that owning an assault rifle is part of being a true American.
This facade of an American identity becomes even more apparent as conservatives prioritize their political gains above saving lives. Hours after the Colorado shooting, Representative Lauren O. Boebert’s (R-Colo.) campaign sent out the following pro-gun propaganda:
“I Told Beto ‘Hell No’ when he tried to take my guns. Now I am in Congress to tell Joe Biden the same.”
Before she begins her crusade against gun control, I would ask Representative Boebert to speak to the families of Eric Talley, Rikki Olds, Kevin Mahoney, Lynn Murray, Denny Stong, Teri Leiker, Tralona Bartkowiak, Jody Waters, Neven Stanisic, and Suzanne Fountain, who lost their lives in the state she represents.
These family members, and countless others, deserve an explanation of why someone’s right to a gun was more important than their loved one’s right to live.
Equally horrifying is the contrast between the treatment of this shooter and Elijah J. McClain, a young Black man who was murdered by police in 2019 in the very same state. The fair-skinned Colorado shooter was taken in with only a minor leg injury after his actions took ten lives. McClain was walking home when he was stopped by cops, put into a carotid hold and injected with ketamine. So what was McClain’s horrendous crime: the crime that elicited worse treatment than a mass shooter in cities than an hour away? He simply “looked sketchy.” This was not an isolated incident. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Stephon Clark, and many more were killed not because of a crime committed but because of the color of their skin. We assume police can protect us from shootings, yet simultaneously, they are perpetuating violence against people of color.
Many, if not all, of my Harvard classmates have seen mass shootings and police violence dominate headlines throughout their lives. We’ve practiced our own school shooter drills, praying that our school won’t be next. However, as our trauma has accumulated, politics has demonstrated that the right to own guns apparently surpasses our right to live.
No longer can we endure these massacres. We must demand our representatives ignore the NRA’s corrupt interests and fight for our lives. We must pressure them to intervene against the long-standing discrimination and racism within U.S. policing. Decades of inaction show that change must start with us, the generation that has never known a time without mass shootings.
Do I want to completely ban guns in America? Do I want these white shooters to be abused by police while being taken into custody? No, we don’t need a complete ban on guns, and certainly don’t need more police violence. We need gun laws to adapt to the development of dangerous weapons. We need to stop the continuous cycle of shootings that we have all become accustomed to.
Until then, Colorado, don’t raise the half-staffed flag a damn inch. We’d be disrespecting the country of equality, freedom, and happiness that the United States stands for.
Markus I. Anzaldua-Campos ’24 is a Crimson Editorial editor.
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