OPINION: Gun ownership is not more important than the lives of children

We needed gun reform in 2012 when 26 people lost their lives at Sandy Hook Elementary. We still need it now (Conrad Kabus | Collegian Media Group)

I grew up learning about firearm safety. I learned to safely shoot rifles at 4-H camp. I used to go shoot clay pigeons for fun with my family. I used to like recreational gun use (though archery is more of my schtick).

Then the Sandy Hook school shooting happened in 2012. There were 26 people (of which 20 were children) killed at the hands of one shooter with multiple guns.

Then the Pulse nightclub shooting happened in 2016. There were 49 people killed by a man wielding an AR-15-style rifle and a handgun.

Then the Las Vegas shooting happened last year. There were 58 people killed by a man with 23 firearms on him, attacking a music festival from the safety of his hotel room with AR-15s modified to effectively fire in full auto.

And among these acts of violence, school shootings are far too common; we are less than two months into 2018 and 18 school shootings have occurred in the U.S., including the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday where 17 people lost their lives in a high school.

Every time these events transpire, I become less and less forgiving toward pro-gun, pro-Second Amendment, pro-National Rifle Association points of view.

The Second Amendment is not protecting Americans anymore. We live in a society where it’s okay to suppress women’s reproductive rights, where it’s okay to tear immigrant families apart without warning, where it’s okay to have children live in fear of going to school. But having a firearm on my person without proper training is fine, according to Kansas law.

We needed gun reform in 2012. We still need it now.

I’ve spoken out about concealed carry on Kansas college campuses before, and I don’t really care if you feel like more of an independent, proud American because of your right to carry a gun. I don’t care.

I care that, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, an average of 96 Americans are killed by guns each day — about seven of those deaths per day are children. On average, 50 women per month are killed by their partners with a firearm. And the majority of suicides in the U.S. are performed with guns.

Guns don’t belong in schools. Period.

Children’s lives are at stake. College students’ lives are at stake. And if America believes the right to own a lethal weapon supersedes the rights to life (accessible health care), liberty (justice for victims of rape and gang violence) and the pursuit of happiness (literally not dying at school), then we have a major problem on our hands.

We need to stop being complicit with gun violence.

We can start by advocating for banning the sale of civilian-grade assault rifles. An AR-15 was one of many weapons used by the shooters in the Pulse nightclub, Las Vegas and Parkland — the Associated Press reports that the Parkland shooter legally bought his AR-15.

AR-15s are not for hunting. They are not for recreation. They are one modification away from being military-grade assault rifles that don’t belong in civilian hands.

Call Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts. Call your state and federal representatives. Let them know that no matter how much campaign money the NRA gives them, school children are harmed by gun violence today. People of color are harmed by gun violence today. Domestic abuse victims are harmed by gun violence today.

We should not be complicit in these innocent deaths just for the sake of the “right to bear arms.”

Dene Dryden is the chief copy editor for the Collegian and a sophomore in English. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

I'm Dene Dryden, and I graduated in May 2020 with a Bachelor's of Arts in English. Before graduating, I worked at the Collegian for more than three years as a copy chief, managing editor and editor-in-chief. I also served a term on the Collegian Media Group Board of Directors. While at K-State, I also worked at Wildcat 91.1 FM. My cat Robyn is the light of my life, and I take compliments in the form of coffee.