Is American Gun Reform Even Possible?


Students march on the State Capitol steps during the March for Our Lives anti-gun violence protest in Nashville, Tenn., on Monday, April 3, 2023. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

Last Monday, as I was going about my day, I had a moment of free time. I opened the news app on my phone and refreshed it so I could see the latest headlines. I was expecting something about Trump’s latest campaign stunt or maybe an update on the Selena-Hailey-Kylie feud. 

What I did not anticipate seeing was a headline screaming something along the lines of, “Breaking News: Active Shooter at Nashville Elementary School Kills Multiple Children.”

Back in 2016, before Trump was elected but well after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, I might have started crying at the horror of brutally murdered kids. In 2019, I would have felt tremors of panic and intense flashbacks race through me as I recalled my own experience of a school shooting situation. Last year, the horrors of Uvalde – a place I loved near my home of Houston – at least inspired fear, if not grief. But last week? I felt absolutely nothing. I read the headline, registered the news, blinked a few times and then scrolled on. 

After a second, the news felt normal, just like any other day.

That Monday, March 27, at around 10 a.m., Nashville police were alerted of an active shooter at the Covenant School, a Christian elementary school. They responded and successfully eliminated the perpetrator. The shooter was identified as Audrey Hale, a 28-year-old suffering from mental illness. Hale killed six people: three 9-year-old students and three adult staff members.

At this point, does saying we need gun law reform even qualify as an opinion? With fifty school shootings in 2022 alone, according to USA Today, it seems more like a basic fact. Yet, if the slaughters at Columbine, Sandy Hook, Marjory Stoneman Douglas and so many more could not sway lawmakers – and, more importantly, the people who vote them into office – then what hope is there? 

Perhaps, the problem is the messaging. If there is any chance of ending this epidemic of violence, I think we need to stop talking about banning guns. However you feel about private citizens owning military-grade assault rifles, it’s become abundantly clear that negotiations end where chatter about American gun buy-backs begins. Talking about “regulating” gun control generally goes poorly, and pivoting to “gun safety” feels doomed to fail as well.

If the government is incapable of passing comprehensive gun law reform, requiring basic things like a lengthy permit process and mandatory gun safety classes, perhaps they should pivot: attack at the source and regulate the manufacturer as well as the sale of guns rather than the purchasing.

End the gun-show-loophole. Provide gun-safety education as part of the standard elementary school curriculum. Start offering free Kevlar hoodies to all citizens. That last one was meant to be sarcastic, but I wonder if it isn’t the worst idea. I don’t know what the exact solution is, but pushing versions of the same failed policy over and over again is only driving the opposition in deeper.

I’m from Texas, a state that loves the Second Amendment. I’ve been around guns my entire life. I’ve shot every kind you can imagine, and I understand why people feel so protective of their guns. I unequivocally believe in the right of American citizens to own and carry firearms. I believe just as strongly in my right to stay alive.

Twenty-five states generally do not require any sort of permit, background check or training to carry a concealed weapon in most public spaces, according to Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. If basic gun regulations truly sound like ludicrous and malicious government overreach to you, think about all the steps required to own a car — which, by the way, killed fewer American children than guns in 2020.

There’s something specifically terrible about school shootings. Young people’s lives ending in the very place they’re supposed to be shaped seems more wrong than almost any other kind of death. Americans need laws passed to stop the killing, but as years drag on it seems more and more unlikely. Will this ever end, or should we all learn to embrace our new normal as the country where 9-year-olds go to school to die?