This weekend, I gathered in Washington, D.C. with nearly 2,000 gun safety advocates from Students Demand Action and Moms Demand Action for our annual gathering, Gun Sense University.
We were all together, learning about how to prevent gun violence in our communities when, once again, we received tragic news of another mass shooting — this time in my home state of Texas. Then, I woke up to news of another mass shooting overnight — this time in Dayton, Ohio. In less than 24 hours, our nation experienced two major mass shootings. And in Chicago, five people were killed and 42 other individuals were injured in shootings across the city this weekend.
The shooting in El Paso isn't the first time a mass shooting has hit close to home. I was a junior in high school last year when a gunman opened fire at Santa Fe High School outside of Houston. Texas is now home to four of the nation's 10 deadliest mass shootings. I find myself asking over and over again, "How could we let this happen?"
I'm proud to be from Texas, and I'm proud of how diverse my state is. That's what makes us strong. Reports have surfaced that the shooter in El Paso was likely driven by hatred against our Mexican and Mexican-American brothers and sisters and the shooting is being treated as a case of domestic terrorism and the Justice Department is considering federal hate crime charges as well. El Paso is a border town, with a large immigrant population, and many people from each side of the border travel back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico every day. The shooter drove all the way from Allen — near my hometown of Southlake — and targeted the community of El Paso. It's far too easy in this country for people with hate in their hearts to get their hands on guns. We must put an end to this.
When I heard the news of each of these tragedies, my heart broke, just as it breaks with each tragic, senseless act of gun violence. At this point, it feels as if my heart is broken into a million pieces. But I won't let that stop me.
"I've never been more sure that our grassroots movement will bring about change."
While I'm ashamed of the lawmakers from my state and across the country who have failed to protect us, seeing 2,000 grassroots volunteers fighting for gun safety in one room this weekend reminded me of our strength and our power. I've never been more sure that our grassroots movement will bring about change.
It's no longer acceptable for lawmakers to stay quiet when people are being gunned down while shopping for school supplies or enjoying a night out. Our lawmakers who sit idly by are complicit in the bloodshed. It's time to tell them we won't stand for their inaction anymore. It's time to demand they do something. And if they don't, it's time to vote them out of office.
We know what works to reduce the gun violence wrecking our communities. We aren't lacking in solutions — what we're lacking is action from our lawmakers.
Instead, what we see year after year is Texas and Ohio legislators continuing to weaken gun laws and put our communities at risk. Neither Texas nor Ohio even requires background checks on all gun sales. That means anyone can buy a gun online or at a gun show — with no background check and no questions asked. And in both Texas and Ohio, a person can openly carry a semiautomatic rifle in public — which puts all of us at risk — and can do so with no background check, permit or safety training.
Not only have state lawmakers failed us in Ohio and in my home state, the U.S. Senate has absolutely failed to take action to end this public health crisis. The House of Representatives has done its part by passing bipartisan, common-sense gun violence prevention legislation to require a background check on all gun sales, but the Senate has done nothing. While no one law can prevent every act of gun violence, background checks are associated with reduced rates of gun homicide, gun suicides, and gun trafficking.
If you're outraged like me over the senseless gun violence that's tearing our communities apart, join me in calling on your senators to pass background checks on all gun sales. If you're ready to take action too, text CHECKS to 644-33 to be connected with your senators.
We must honour those who have had their lives cut short with action — thoughts and prayers aren't getting us anywhere.
Alanna Miller is 18 years old and will be an incoming freshman at Duke University for Fall 2019. She is from the Dallas-Fort Worth area and is on the advisory board of Students Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, part of Everytown for Gun Safety.