I’m a gun owner and veteran, but first and foremost, I am a mother of three daughters who wants her children to grow up in a country where their lives are more protected than an AR-15. As I watched President Biden sign the historic gun reform bill into law, I should have felt relieved. Instead, I felt terrified as the extremist conservative Supreme Court stripped them of their right to bodily autonomy just one day after gutting a New York gun control law.
We have entered an era of American history where a gun has more rights than a child in a classroom. How long do we have until this Court overturns the gun reform law?
Like many service members, I enlisted because I had no other options. I came from a lower-income family and needed a living wage and money for school. At eighteen, I signed my life away to serve my country.
The military trained me to use weapons of war, their only purpose: kill as many people as quickly as possible. We are required to go through rigorous training to learn how to handle such dangerous weapons. When not training or on deployments, our weapons were locked in an armory.
It’s terrifying that any 18-year-old American can wield these weapons, no matter how inexperienced, untrained, or dangerous. Now, my husband and I own several handguns and shotguns. They are always locked up with ammo stored separately. We use carrying cases with locks for transport. We teach our children about every part of the gun at the shooting range.
We also teach our children the firearm safety lessons we learned at basic training: Treat your gun as if it’s loaded, Never point at anything you don’t intend to shoot, Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to fire, Keep your safety on until you’re ready to fire. As responsible gun owners, it’s our duty to stay trained and prioritize gun safety.
I served as a Navy corpsman from 2002 to 2009. I was fortunate to never be sent to a war zone, instead I was stationed domestically. But many of my friends weren’t so lucky. They witnessed death and destruction from weapons of war. The PTSD they suffer from, the burden they carry each day, is insurmountable.
Now, this trauma is shared by everyday grocery shoppers, church worshippers, and schoolchildren who survive horrific mass shootings. There is no “returning to normal” after witnessing your friends, colleagues, and community gunned down.
As the tragedy in Uvalde unfolded, I first thought of my own children. At ages 9, 12, and 14, this violence could’ve happened at their schools. Like many parents, my mind went to the worst possible scenario. I can’t even imagine how I could live through such heartbreak.
Americans shouldn’t accept our lawmakers’ response to gun violence to be arming teachers and flooding our country with more weapons. The solution is obvious and two thirds of Americans agree: We need stronger gun violence prevention laws.
After decades of inaction on gun reform, I was grateful to see the bipartisan gun reform bill signed into law. It invests in mental health resources in schools, institutes safety measures in schools, and includes enhanced review processes for buyers under 21. Most importantly, the “red flag” provision would help keep weapons away from people who a court deems a danger to themselves or others.
While it is the most significant gun reform law passed in 30 years, it’s just the first step towards curbing America’s gun violence epidemic. Even this moderate progress faces an unlikely future as the Supreme Court reverses decades of progress. As the fate of our country sits in the hands of six extremist justices, I hesitate to celebrate any progress with a conservative majority that has the power to tear it all down.
Originally published in The Virginian Pilot
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