I grew up in a small state. I grew up fortunate, sheltered, and safe. Most people referred to my town as the “bubble.” There were low rates of poverty and low rates of crime. I did not have to worry about being mugged or shot when walking through my neighborhood.
It was not until recently that I began to understand that not every young person grew up with the same safety I was fortunate to have in my hometown.
I did not understand the risk of violence until one of my friends, someone from the same sheltered town, died at the hands of someone with a gun. On Aug. 26, 2023, in South Carolina, he was killed by a gunshot wound to the upper body.
Due to the laws within the state of South Carolina, no charges were filed, and the case was ruled a “justifiable homicide.” I was shocked when I heard the news; I think I still am. This was not something I or anyone in my community was used to or prepared for. As the compassionate, intelligent, sincere, and loving person that he was, this was not something that should have happened.
Gun violence is a topic that is heavily talked about, it acts as a channel through which cautionary stories and news articles are shared ad nauseam, but the true issue has been neglected by society as a whole. The movement toward gun reform has become stagnant. Insufficient efforts are being taken on a federal level, which impacts every state, including those that possess well-fortified laws.
In July 2023, Gov. Ned Lamont enacted House Bill 6667, commonly referred to as the “Gun Violence Prevention Act.” This comprehensive legislation contains several measures designed to address issues including community gun violence, mass shootings, firearm accidents, protection of domestic violence victims, and prevention of suicides.
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Although this bill strengthened the laws to prevent further tragedies from happening, Gov. Lamont also stated that “federal and state laws have not kept up with the innovative ways firearm companies are manufacturing guns, especially those that are being designed with the sole intention of killing the largest number of people possible in the shortest amount of time.”
This quote is crucial for conveying my message. Even though Connecticut has strong gun safety laws, it reminds us of the ongoing need to keep these laws up-to-date and effective on a nationwide scale. While certain states including Connecticut and California have enacted stricter gun control laws, federal regulations pertaining to firearms have not been modified significantly. States like Connecticut have reservations about this discrepancy in legislation because it allows firearms that are easily accessible in surrounding states to cross state boundaries.
The differences in legislation not only reveal the complex nature of gun control in the U.S. but also underline the difficulties that states with stricter rules may encounter in preventing the diffusion of weapons from areas with lenient laws; it draws attention to a lack of regulations that make it possible for weapons that are incredibly lethal to be manufactured without sufficient oversight.
Improving firearm safety and reducing gun violence in the U.S. is dependent on limiting access to firearms. Reaching this objective requires a comprehensive strategy that addresses all aspects of firearm possession, access, and security. Encouraging responsible gun ownership, passing laws requiring secure storage, and supporting neighborhood-based programs aimed at preventing violence can all help to reduce the number of firearm-related tragedies and improve public safety.
The CT Against Gun Violence (CAGV) group advocates one simple mission, to end gun violence in Connecticut. One initiative the CAGV is campaigning on is a “Talk About Gun Safety” initiative, advocating for heightened gun safety education in school communities. This initiative seeks to develop a proactive approach by encouraging staff and educators to implement gun safety education.
The primary objective lies in addressing the root cause of gun violence, the irresponsible behavior of gun owners and their failure to safely store their firearms. This initiative takes a crucial first step in protecting numerous lives by instructing both students and parents about the vital importance of secure firearm storage practices and responsible conduct.
Comprehensively and actively adapting gun control laws is desperately needed. The emotional and physical toll that survivors of these kinds of tragedies endure is evidence of these implications. Gun designs and manufacturing are continuously evolving, and so should our laws.
Growing up in a small town, gun violence was nothing but a news article to me. It took me losing a friend to realize the expansive severity of this problem. It is not a localized issue, but rather a national crisis that can impact anyone. It does not matter where you grew up, who you associate with, or how safe you think you are. Guns do not have borders, they do not have morals or warnings, and there is no avoiding this problem.
How many people have to die before we see the flaws in our systems?
Sophia Sweitzer is a senior at Sacred Heart University, majoring in Health Science with a concentration in Global Health.