Mass/School Shootings in the United States

“Gun control laws are a NEED not a want.”

Illustration by Stevie Esteban

In 2023 alone, we have had 131 mass shootings, even though there have barely been 100 days in the year. That is more than one shooting a day. These are schools, safe spaces and stores being turned into war zones. Like the weapons that inflict this pain and suffering, the shootings and their motivations are sporadic and all over the place. Gun violence has been more and more present, permeating both the conversation and media I consume. Every week, I see another shooting making the news, knowing it is only one of the many that had happened over the past few days. I have grown accustomed to the difference in sound between a car backfiring, a firework going off and a gunshot. 

I asked a group of University of Washington students about their experience with gun violence, mass shootings and the astronomical number of them this year alone. The responses, while varying, all had the same idea; They all wanted change. They did not blame guns for the actions of the people who used them for horrible reasons and actions. Most think of guns the same way many do, as a form of protection, but also recognize that gun control is only one part of the answer. 

A big part of the responses placed blame on mental health issues and the lack of access to and support with mental health care in the U.S., saying “mass shootings are mostly the result of a mental health crisis, but they wouldn’t be as commonplace if guns were harder to obtain.”As someone who has dealt with my own mental health issues, I can say it is way too difficult for those without a certain socioeconomic status to access those resources. Then, once you have been able to get access to the support, resources are still far and few between. I also think it’s important to remember that while mental health may explain the actions, it does not excuse them. Especially when those actions are taking lives away from countless children, women, and men. 

Students and teachers alike are sick of being afraid to go to school or be proud of who they are because of how dangerous the lack of gun control and access to health care here in the U.S. One student said “I honestly feel nervous coming to school sometimes, with the recent shooting at a university, I always hope and pray to make it home safely. Due to UW being open to the public, sometimes it’s scary to think that anyone can come into our classrooms and cause unnecessary damage to students.” 

Another student said, in order to stay prepared for anything they are “more aware of [their] surroundings, sitting facing doors, knowing all exits, staying armed when regulations permit”  

When asked why guns are so important, many say it is for protection. To that I ask, from what? Other people with guns? If gun control were as effective as it could be, then that would not be necessary. It does not seem like rocket science. Gun violence is not something we can continue to ignore. The problem has been growing and growing and unless we do something about it, nothing is going to change. Gun control is the first step, but access to mental health care and health care in general is part of that. We need to do something, because “nothing” is getting people killed.