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Thursday, April 18, 2024

We will not wait for another school shooting

The Editorial Board stands in solidarity with a nationwide call for gun reform

You may not have heard, but there was a big commotion in the world of college newspapers late last year. The Daily Tar Heel, the student newspaper of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), published a front page that went viral. After a horrific shooting on campus that killed a faculty member and had students barricading themselves anywhere they could, their editorial board ran an issue to describe the experience from students’ perspectives. Instead of a traditional headline, the entire front page was filled with text messages sent and received by students during the three-hour lockdown, including heart-wrenching lines like “I am so sorry this is happening” and “Still going on and coming closer, hoping it’s cops.” 

The Daily Tar Heel was reported on by NPR, acknowledged by President Biden and applauded by people around the country who recognized the difficult feat of reporting this subject. It was an undoubtedly impressive display of vulnerability and resilience but it was also an example of precisely the type of work that is so important to student newspapers. 

At The California Aggie, we are incredibly proud to cover everything from light-hearted reviews of our favorite books to controversial current events that impact our students. The stabbings last spring, the reported assault in the fall, the violence in the Gaza strip — while the editorial board never wants to have to cover things like this, reporting on events that are important to the UCD community is an important and fulfilling task. With print media dwindling in popularity, sometimes tragic events like these highlight why quality journalism is still worthy of attention. 

The problem with the response to the viral UNC issue is that for all the outrage and emotion, nothing changed at a state or national level. The passionate testimony from students was not met with policy changes or even sustained public outcry. As with so many devastating events, the media coverage and awareness spiked within a week and then steadily faded from the memory of most Americans.

To a certain extent, this is the only reaction we can reasonably expect. The UNC shooting changed the lives of those involved forever, but the story was not unique. Only a few months later, the University of Nevada, Reno experienced a shooting that left at least three people dead. This is just another incident in the long, long string of campus shootings familiar to American news cycles, briefly flaring the public conscience before we all move on.

With 2024 being an election year, we can already see the return of debates surrounding gun control, heavily influenced by corporate interests. New technology brings new concerns, like “ghost guns” made by 3D printers and distributed without regulation. But the basic facts remain the same. The majority of all gun-related deaths in the U.S. are suicides. Self-defense gun use is rare and not more effective at preventing injury than other protective actions. Since 1999, there have been 394 school shootings in the U.S. Our current firearm policies are not preventing crime and are endangering our communities, especially our youth.

In California, we have the strongest gun laws in the country, including background checks, no “Shoot First” law and mandatory secure storage around children. As college students here, there are times to be grateful for the protection we have. However, the bare minimum, common sense laws in California are not enough to set us at ease. Californians have reported guns crossing state lines from Nevada, including the semiautomatic rifle used at the 2019 mass shooting in Gilroy. Moreover, watching students around the country live in fear because of lax gun laws is not an option. It is essential that we shift American societal and political attitudes to prioritize public welfare.

This week, roughly 60 college newspapers and 90 student groups have joined together to demand that gun violence be taken seriously in America and to declare a steadfast commitment to prioritizing human lives over the interests of gun lobbies. The Editorial Board stands with this coalition and supports their call to action:

“We invite you to join this generation’s community of organizers, all of us united in demanding a future free of gun violence. We understand the gravity of this commitment, because it’s not simply our lives we protect with prose and protest. It is our way of life itself. 

We will not allow America to be painted in a new layer of blood. We will not allow politicians to gamble our lives for NRA money.

And most of all, politicians will not have the shallow privilege of reading another front-cover op-ed by students on their knees, begging them to do their jobs — we do not need a permission slip to defend our freedoms. They will instead contend with the reality that by uniting with each other and among parents, educators and communities, our demands become undeniable. 

We feel intense anger and frustration and sadness, and in its wake we search for reaffirmations of our empathy — the remarkable human capacity to take on a tiny part of someone else’s suffering. We rediscover this fulfillment in our organizing, in our community, in not just moving away from the unbearable pain of our yesterday but in moving toward an unrelenting hope for our tomorrow.”

College journalism will always be tasked with reflecting the highs and lows of college life, but there’s no reason the lows should include being faced with the threat of gun violence on campus. The Editorial Board urges you to volunteer, educate, donate and vote to support stricter gun laws and safety for the youth of America. 

Written by: The Editorial Board

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