Celia Jiménez here, admitting that I feel numb every time I hear about another mass shooting. Unfortunately, these tragedies have become part of our everyday landscape.
I felt the opposite, though, when I attended a vigil that Airam Coronado of MILPA led at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Seaside to remember and honor the 19 children and two teachers who were killed in Uvalde, Texas on May 24. I will remember the chilling and solemn moment when they were in a circle shouting the names of the students and teachers who were killed that day. I’ll remember the frustrations and hopes that parents and students shared.
“We need to do something to change the Constitution,” Maria Carmen Parra, a mother of four from Salinas, says in Spanish. Parra’s youngest attends fourth grade, and the recent events make her fear for her kid’s safety at school. The shooting in Uvalde overwhelmed her.
It demonstrated that “not everyone is suitable to have a gun,” Parra says. “We need to make a movement, go to Sacramento, to Washington, wherever we have to go to change that part of the Constitution—Second Amendment rights—that allows everyone to have a gun.”
According to the Gun Violence Archive, as of June 16 there have been 267 mass shootings in the U.S. this year. And in the seven years between 2014 and 2020 the number of mass shootings in the country has doubled.
The recent shootings seem to have changed the way Americans view the balance between gun rights and gun control. According to a NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist national poll from May 31 to June 6, 59 percent support controlling gun violence while 35 percent favor protecting gun rights. The framing of the Second Amendment as a broad gun rights protection is actually a relatively recent construct, as reported in this week’s paper, but it’s had a strong hold.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a piece of gun control legislation called the Protecting Our Kids Act on June 8, after hearing testimony from survivors and parents affected during the Uvalde shooting. At the Senate level there is also a bipartisan effort to enact gun control laws. Even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, traditionally a champion against firearm restrictions, has shown interest in stronger gun regulations.
In the meantime, communities band together to prepare for the worst. School districts offer drills to make sure teachers and students are ready in case of an active shooter situation. I recently attended one at Alisal Union School District for my cover story about how schools are responding to and preparing for gun violence. It was eye-opening to know people have to decide in less than a second what to do if they are in a dangerous situation.
I’m hopeful that stronger gun regulations will become a reality in the near future. Some will undoubtedly argue that this strips them of a constitutional right. But we have an important human right to protect here too: The right to live.