Guest Editorial: “No Day But Today”一 A solution is needed to American gun violence

Last year Pepperdine University lost students due to a bar shooting. We can’t let that happen at Vanderbilt. The time for gun reform is now.

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Guest Editorial: “No Day But Today”一 A solution is needed to American gun violence

Emily

Emily

Emily

Caroline Wilkerson, Guest Writer

Content warning: this article discusses gun violence and a mass shooting. 

Have you ever been invited to what later became a mass shooting?

I have.

Maybe you have, too.

Though a stomach bug prevented me from going line dancing with my Pepperdine friends at the Borderline Bar on Nov. 7, 2018, my experience with the aftermath of the horrific tragedy that ensued forever changed me. 

It’s now been a year since someone tried to shoot my friends.

My best friend lived next to the girl who didn’t come home. Though I didn’t know her personally, we sang in the choir together, and she had the warmest smile I’ve ever seen. Her name was Alaina, and she lived vivaciously. She loved Coffee Bean chocolate iced mochas, and playing soccer and the ukulele. She was an English major who was on the Mock Trial team, and was planning on studying abroad in Florence this year.  We were supposed to go on making music together, and then one gun changed all of that permanently. The next song I sang in that choir was at Alaina’s memorial service. Her mother and father and little brother were sitting in front of me without her. I saw my friends with their arms wrapped in bandages. They had to break through glass windows to escape, just because they were dancing.  

After many tears and hugs and questions, I opened the choir attendance log and flipped to Alaina’s name. “Sorry I was late, I was helping a teacher,” she wrote in her pretty bubbly handwriting. Somehow the pen, binder, and empty chair was still here, but Alaina wasn’t anymore. Alaina’s parents made a bookmark that they gave out to her friends. She really loved the musical “Rent,” so her parents printed the quote “No day but today” above a picture of her. That always stays with me. Those were supposed to be her senior pictures, not the ones on the bulletin for her funeral. I put that quote on my door so that it’s the last thing I see when I walk out into the world every morning. It reminds me that each new day could be my last but also emboldens me to seize every opportunity the world offers to enact change for the better. 

This epidemic of violence is festering in America.The accessibility of guns, and their potential to inflict so much carnage so quickly makes them particularly harmful. As shown in Canada’s gun reform,  if we made obtaining a gun about as challenging as getting a driver’s license, there would be a decrease in shootings. Like or not, we must work with those with whom we disagree. Forget about burying the hatchet, we need to bury weapons of mass assault on behalf of those who have been deprived of their voices and their  lives. 

 Aside from enabling mass shootings, guns equip drug cartels, hate crimes against minorities, gang violence and the suicide epidemic. There is no sacred place in America: churches, schools, concerts, Home Depots, Walmarts, Waffle Houses, movie theaters, post offices…senseless violence has touched all of these places.

Some may say that “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” but I refute that. Guns don’t prevent violence; people do. Heroic and selfless people, who throw themselves on mass shooters to buy precious seconds for others to escape. We should focus the media attention on these martyrs instead of glorifying the perpetrators of violence, and incentivizing them to achieve notoriety. We must remember names like Sgt. Ron Helus and Kendrick Castillo, and countless others who have sacrificed their lives for others. 

Gun violence is indubitably preventable. Enacting more gun legislation probably won’t stop every shooting in America, but it might stop one. If any small change saves one life, then it’s worth it. 

There was one less alto in my choir at Pepperdine when the semester finished because of the gun violence epidemic in America. I’m not writing this because I have answers for this issue, but because I refuse to stop seeking them. Until then, donate blood, because God knows victims of gun violence need it. Give life instead of taking it away, because your heart is still beating. Reach out to people. Hold your friends close while you have them and be kind. While it may sound naive, what we need most in our country is respect for human life, and an efficient way to do build that is through kindness. For every person who slips through the cracks of our society unnoticed, bring one more to the forefront of your care. Lastly, we must talk about gun violence. I ask you: how do you address gun violence in your conversations? Are you facilitating respectful and effective dialogue? How will you address gun violence on behalf of those who no longer can? Why wait? At the end of this, all I really know is: “There’s no day but today.”

 

Caroline Wilkerson is a sophomore in Peabody. You can reach her at caroline.h.wilkerson@vanderbilt.edu.

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