By Kyla Downs
March for Our Lives, a youth-led movement that began after the 2018 Parkland, FL, school shooting, has a policy titled “It Ends With Us”. This is a policy agenda created to address what young people nationwide say they need --we need--to be safe. It addresses not just specific laws, but the culture here in the U.S. that leads to gun violence. What leads to violence with firearms?
Gun Glorification: The belief in American culture that power and safety comes from guns. This puts guns on a pedestal, prioritizing firearm access over access to human needs.
Armed Supremacy: The use and threat of gun violence to reinforce power structures, hierarchies, and status. This allows individuals and groups of people to reinforce their perceived value relative to those with less power. It is how white supremacy and the patriarchy remain in power.
Political Apathy and Corruption: The gradual destruction of the democratic ideal that power comes from the people. Politicians use voters to bring themselves power, but this happens when politics fail to change the lives of those it's meant to serve.
Poverty: The communities facing high rates of everyday gun violence have been systematically denied resources and opportunity by the state for generations.
National Mental Health Crisis: Millions of Americans struggle with undiagnosed and untreated mental illness and lack of access to mental health support and care. Those with mental illness are often mischaracterized as a threat to others, when in fact, they are at higher risk of ending up as a victim to gun violence themselves, including suicide.
It Ends With Us is only the beginning of tackling the national epidemic that is gun violence. A study reported in The New England Journal of Medicine that gun violence has beat out car accidents as the leading cause of death among children and teens in the United States in 2020. Even though this is an all-time high for the nation as a whole, gun violence has been the leading cause of death for Black teenage boys over 15 for at least a decade according to CDC data. Gun-related homicides have risen 33% in 2020, but the increase was disproportionately felt by Black Americans--nearly half of the nation’s homicide victims are Black Americans. California teens have felt the shock of the rise in shootings in their communities. Samantha Walton, a 17 year-old from San Francisco said “I just wonder, ‘Damn, who’s next?’” A suggested approach by Goldstick, a researcher from the University of Michigan, is to approach the problem of gun violence like a public health issue. The youth-led March For Our Lives policy demands that the Biden-Harris Administration take the same approach to gun violence in America.
The Biden-Harris administration have taken their first steps in combating gun violence by addressing ghost guns. What exactly are ghost guns you might ask? Ghost guns are unserialized, privately-made firearms that law enforcement are increasingly finding at crime scenes across the country. People can purchase “buy build shoot kits” without a background check that will equip them with a working firearm in as little as 30 minutes at home. These have been listed as the weapon of choice for many violent crimes. In 2021, there were 20,000 suspected ghost guns reported to The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives that were recovered in criminal investigations. President Biden will crack down on ghost guns by requiring any federally licensed firearms dealer and gunsmith who receives one to serialize it, making it traceable. He will also make it mandatory for dealers to keep their records until their business is shut down. Biden’s fiscal year 2023 budget requests that Congress deliver the needed funding to implement the President’s plan to reduce gun-related crimes and make communities safer.
Even though this plan will reduce the amount of ghost guns on the street, there is still the problem of serialized guns moving around with ease. This law also does not ensure that all ghost guns will be brought in to be serialized, nor does it stop people from utilizing the “buy build shoot kits”. It is a way to hold firearms dealers and gunsmiths accountable, but the problem at hand is still the accessibility to guns. Taking action against the “buy build shoot kits” and making them illegal will be a step in the direction to getting more guns off the street. We must hold the Biden-Harris Administration to their word to fight gun violence in our nation.
Kyla Downs is a Science and Technology in Societies major from South Jersey who has a passion for healthcare equality in the United States. She also was one of three cheer captains in ‘21-’22.