What starts out as a typical back-to-school ad becomes increasingly more and more disturbing as students in the background of each scene begin running away from some ominous threat. Each child who makes an appearance holds some sort of mundane object — a skateboard, colored pencils, socks — that is then utilized in a manner of self-defense. 

The dark shadow creeping on the heels of these kids is also one that is making its way across the country — polarizing politicians and constituents alike. This public service announcement recently published by the Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit aimed at preventing gun violence, prompts us to remember that we cannot neglect the issue of gun violence. The video conveys that shootings have become almost commonplace, to the extent where we should be aware and afraid they could happen anytime and anywhere. Though this may seem extreme, we have to accustom ourselves to the idea that it can become a reality for all of us. The message here is also a necessary call to action, because there really is no valid excuse as to why there has been no progress made on containing this threat. If we really want to see change occur, it is an effort that needs to be made on every level — from local to federal — and so far, we are failing to do so.

Gun violence has become an issue that is only growing more prominent, especially with the two attacks that happened within 24 hours of each other in August. Yet, the United States government has failed to make progress toward alleviating the problem, which is completely unacceptable. So far, one of the few politicians who has been vocal and transparent in their intentions to handle the issue is presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke. At the last Democratic debate, he shared his plans to take away AR-15s and AK-47s, which drew controversy. His plan has been seen as extreme, since he outright stated his intentions to limit the Second Amendment. At the same time, members of his own party are concerned that his words will hinder the progress of the gun control bill that has been proposed by Democrats. Congress has yet to pass the bill for background checks, which is currently still waiting on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for action. So far, there have been no Republican supporters of the bill, because they refuse to take action until they are sure President Donald Trump will support it.

This is not how Congress should work. The Republican excuse is just a cop out: If they actually cared about taking action, Trump’s potential response would not matter. Background checks are far less “extreme” in the sense that they do not completely prevent people from exercising their right to bear arms. Even if Trump threatens to veto the bill, Congress can always vote to override it — it is just a matter of whether or not they really care enough about it. At this point, gun violence has extended beyond the debate of exercising rights and become an issue of public health. Considering it has crossed into the domain of public health and safety, there is even less reason to not take action. The government has police powers — the ability to act in the interest of preserving the health and safety of the people — and it should exercise them.  

Being a politician is not about achieving what is easy, it is about achieving the greater good for your constituents — and the constituents want gun control. In a recently conducted Marist poll, 55 percent of adults agreed gun control was more important than their Second Amendment rights. Politicians are blatantly ignoring what the people actually want, but at what cost? Is campaign funding and support from the NRA really worth endangering the lives of so many Americans? When did politics become about staying in power for the sake of a career rather than helping the people? 

At the same time, Democrats should stand up and take a stronger stance. This is not an issue that can be compromised on. I know bipartisanship is necessary to get things done, but talks between the two parties will only continue to go in circles. If a bill on background checks — which is already such a simple form of gun regulation — cannot even get passed, what hope do we really have of achieving anything? If the government is at an impasse on the issue and there is no federal progress, then we need to seek out change through another method. Why give all of these politicians the privilege to affect change when they have done nothing with their power to help others? With 23 Republican Senate seats up for reelection in 2020, we can now be vocal in effecting change. If politicians seem like they are losing sight of what is important, we can easily remind them of what matters. The statistics show that a large percentage of us care strongly about regulation, we just need to make our voices heard. There is a saying that all politics is local. It all starts with us voters.

Alice Lin can be reached at alicelin@umich.edu.

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