By Pat Gainor, Staff Writer
In a statement released by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, she called the mass shooting epidemic an “American problem.”
Right away, most right-in-the-head people will probably go “Well, duh. The number of guns in the country per 100 people is higher than 100, and there have been more mass shootings this year than there are days gone in 2023. We, as a country, have come to a point where some unengaged soul looks at the news on their phone, grimaces when they see that someone shot up a high school and then just continues with their day. No other place in the world has that problem.”
That person in the last sentence was once me. In preparing my article about the Michigan State shooting last week, I came to the horrifying realization that while there were the names of the shootings that everyone knew – Parkland, Sandy Hook, Columbine, Uvalde and others – there were many that had happened and taken the lives of students my age and younger that had slipped through the cracks. More than 350 school shootings and hundreds of thousands dead just left to fade into obscurity for the unobservant observer.
There was a school shooting last year in St. Louis that I wrote an article about t, and I came to realize the process these all went through. The shooting happened, there was massive coverage about the response and the grief, a motive was established to the suspect, legislation was pushed forward to restrict mentally unfit people from using guns in places like schools and the arrogant red rashes in our government systems who only offer “thoughts and prayers” shut it down because that’s what gets them re-elected.
Cynical? Absolutely, perhaps excessively so. But Michigan State was different.
Usually there was a motive, something about rage against the school or the student body itself. But in this case, there was, and still is, none. Anthony McRae walked into two Michigan State buildings and shot at students, killing three and injuring five.
Nobody knows why.
That’s what got to me. I came to realize that these people that have died could have been me, my friends or someone that I knew.. An angry person with a gun could walk into Gallagher and kill someone I care about, and outside of the Xavier community, they would just be a name on a list where kids keep dying and efforts to stop that are actively prevented from occurring. People still see quiet kid memes on TikTok, smile at them and move on. Nothing changes, and soon enough, three more shootings have happened to kick dirt over everything that happened here.
Isn’t that the most American shit ever?
It feels so wrong that young adults have the power to stop it.
The 2022 midterms helped prompt the realization of how much power we have. We took a Senate that was predicted to be swamped with red and flipped it blue. We showed that we can be the generation of change that can bring protection to queer persons, immigrants, reproductive rights and more. As the young people of America, we can stand in honor of those who were gunned down in their schools and begin to denormalize this abhorrent abnormality.
We have been shown the power of our actions, so no longer can we write it off as a sad reality of life in this horribly flawed country. We don’t have to sigh in sadness at the protests the enraged and grieving Spartan community is having because we know they’ll be stamped out by the red despots endorsed by the National Rifle Association (NRA).
It’s easy to feel hopeless and cynical about everything, living in paranoia about the possibility of someone we love being next. But we have been given a sign about how it doesn’t have to be that way. The youth of America have the power to prevent Michigan State from becoming another statistic and instead put us on the path where we don’t have to live in fear of every Turning Point USA gun rights protester standing illegally outside of Hailstones and what he could do with a gun.
Gretchen Whitmer was right. The school shooting epidemic is an “American problem.” But we, the young and the driven, are the solution to America’s problem. It’s time to cut away our cynicism and propel change.
For Arielle. For Brian. For Alexandria.