As I was walking back from class this afternoon, I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed like I always do to kill time when I suddenly saw a mass stream of posts with the hashtag #UCCShooting. After further research, I found out that yet another school shooting happened today, at Umpqua Community College in southern Oregon, and up to 10 people were killed with at least 20 more injured. The incident happened in only one classroom, but authorities informed the residents of the surrounding area to stay away from the college for safety precautions. Students that were on campus at the time were on lockdown for hours until they were finally allowed to leave the premises by shuttle in large groups.
This incident marks yet another gun tragedy that has happened in the past year, taking its place along with the Charleston shooting in June and the Lafayette shooting in April. One of the most striking things to me about shootings like this is that they keep happening in environments where people typically feel most safe and comfortable. As most of you who love Boston College can probably empathize with, the college environment is often one that pushes human development academically, socially, and spiritually; this so familiar feeling of safety was taken away from the students at Umpqua Community College today. This morning, the place where thousands of students came to better themselves and their futures was struck with a sick act of violence that goes against the things that a college environment emulates, and its images of self-improvement and friendship have been replaced with feelings of emptiness, fear, and loss.
Such acts of violence keep invading this nation’s safe havens, and there seems to have been little done about it in these past few months in terms of political attention and policy change. Numerous politicians keep telling the American people that gun violence is not tolerated in this country and actions are being done to tighten up gun laws, but no noteworthy developments have been made in the areas of law reform and gun safety. 2016 presidential candidates such as Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have both stated that they want to increase gun control at least for high caliber weapons, but having candidates like Donald Trump at the forefront of the public eye is only weakening the chances that anything substantial will be done in Congress. Even if the current Commander in Chief has gun control near the top of their priority list, as Barack Obama has stated that he does, the slow-moving pace that bills get processed on Capitol Hill leaves little to no time for the efficient enactment of these policies. After each shooting, though, the public outcry in terms of protests and social media outreach has only seemed to have gotten stronger. Candlelight vigils, Facebook posts, and letters to local politicians, to name a few, all show that the American population cares about the safety of this country, honors the many who have died because of gun violence, and strives to make a meaningful impact on the way lawmakers handle creating laws to prevent more gun violence.
As college students at a prestigious university, we all have the right and the responsibility to take action against gun violence. Even if you don’t know anyone who has been affected by these tragedies, the people who have died even in this past year have been somebody’s daughters, sons, partners, or friends. In order to stop the apathy and ambivalence regarding gun control and the safety of the American people, we all need to speak out against these shameful acts of violence that keep striking this nation again and again. Even if you think your voice doesn’t matter, I promise you that it does. Living so close to the city of Boston gives us such a huge advantage in having a say in how this nation deals with gun violence. Get involved. Write to city and national lawmakers. Sign online petitions. Start those meaningful conversations. Do your part in making all of the schools, churches, movie theaters, and homes in this country safe spaces where we’re all able to better ourselves and form relationships with others without fearing the same fate that happened to too many Umpqua Community College students today. As men and women for others, we’re all called to protect the rights and safety of everyone and do our part to stop these senseless and tragic killings that have been continuously ruining lives and destroying families.