It all started with a Freshman Seminar Citizen Action Project. I chose to learn, research, and write about gun legislation. Once I had completed all of my research and findings, I put them together in a google slides presentation, and was done … almost. I still had to have an action part. What could I do to become an upstander myself? What action could I take to have an impact on the cause I just wrote about? And I decided on writing this letter to the editor for two reasons: it would be considered an action, but more importantly, I would be able to share my findings with the Santa Monica community; I would be able to teach the Santa Monica community about this issue, and how it affects us. Everyone should understand the issues that we face, and I believe that this is one of the best ways to do that, and get more people talking about it, instead of just leaving it untouched. 

From SAMOHI walkouts to national protests, it’s important to understand where everything started. The Columbine High School shooting was the first major school shooting of its kind. Two heavily armed teenagers, aged 17 and 18, killed 13 people and injured 21. This happened on April 20, 1999 – over two decades ago. Since then, more than 311,000 students have experienced gun violence at school. That number doesn’t even include those that have experienced threats outside of school. This just shows the importance and urgency for a piece of legislation that would greatly limit shootings in this country. With this knowledge of gun violence, we can do one of two things: sit back, and continue to let people suffer from this plague of violence, or take action. Currently, because of the 50-50 Democrat-Republican split in the Senate, gun legislation, if not agreed on by both sides, would not be able to pass. Because of the filibuster, at least 60 votes would be needed to pass gun reform legislation. The only way gun legislation could pass with 60 votes or more is if there is bipartisanship and consensus among the Senators. And the only way to reach possible agreement between these two vastly different parties is by trying to find common ground.

Experts agree that on average, more than 40,000 innocent lives are taken each year, due to gun violence. Another mathematical way to look at this is that each day, over 100 Americans are killed, and over 200 wounded by guns. When compared to other established, wealthy countries, the US gun homicide rate is much, much higher: over 26 times that of other nations. But that’s not all. Firearm’s are the number one cause of death for American children and teens – over 2,000 die each year this way. More than vehicle accidents, more than drug overdoses, more than cancer, and the list just goes on and on. Plain and simple, guns have killed too many people. These statistics and data points are super important in the fight for gun legislation because it shows how bad things have gotten, and how bad things will continue to get if nothing is done. In addition, these facts could prove to be very useful when trying to come up with a bipartisan legislative framework, and persuade Senators to at least consider, if not support and vote in favor of a bill that would dramatically reduce school shootings and gun violence. Not only this, but the more violence there is, it becomes more likely that our community could be next. In fact, we’ve already seen threats: At Santa Monica High School, on December 6, 2021,  there was a school shooting threat which resulted in nearly everyone leaving school that day. If nothing is done, these threats will continue to get worse, and the possibility of an actual school shooting in our community becomes more likely. 

In a recent poll conducted by PBS News Hour, NPR, and Marist on what type of gun legislation Americans support, the most important finding was that 72% of Americans agree that the government should create a national “red flag” law. A “red flag” law is a law that allows police or family members to petition to a court, in order to have a firearm taken away from someone they consider to be a threat to themselves or their community. This is really important since as of now, it’s looking like this is a possible (and maybe only) solution that Democrats and Republicans both agree on – something that could receive bipartisan support, and pass the Senate with 60 or more votes. Continuing to talk about this issue, and voicing our opinions to representatives is the best impact We the People can have. 

Ryne Kapen, Santa Monica