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I Am an American

And I am saying #neveragain.

My name is Katherine. I am an American.

Wearing the badge of “American” on my lapel comes with a long list of freedoms and rights that have been fought for and that many have made the ultimate sacrifice so that I may have them. I do not take lightly the freedoms I have been born into, nor do I wish for any American to be denied or stripped of these rights. I celebrate our diversity and our ever-changing culture in America. Our freedoms are detailed in our Constitution, a collection of amendments that Thurgood Marshall referred to as “a living document” in his 1987 lecture. Just as our people and cultures evolve over time so must the freedoms that protect them. Without amendments to the US Constitution, our country would still practice slavery and consider men the “head of household,” preventing women from voting in elections. I hold the right to vote and the women who fought valiantly for me to have that right very close to my heart, but I have found that my elected representatives are now being purchased by NRA money, not by my vote. Recently I have found that adults, teenagers, and children are being killed more frequently and more violently than ever before. I do not blame the gun. I do not blame the NRA. I do not blame my elected representative. Now, once I begin to see a pattern in the weaponry used, I start to question the gun. Once I begin to read statements purely in defense of the weapon used and not a word in regards to the murders a particular gun caused, I start to question the NRA. Once I begin to see that certain legislation is not being brought forward and that action is not being taken because of large donations from the NRA to campaign funds, I start to question my elected representative. 

An article written by the editor of the NRA’s “America’s First Freedom” wrote, “The AR-15 rifle is once again under fire by gun banners—who ignore the fact that rifles of any kind are seldom used in crime, and seem to despise anyone who dares to own one.” While I take issue with several points here, I would like to argue that the past ten deadliest mass shootings in modern US history have been performed with the AR-15 (Segarra, Time). Do I blame the NRA for the deaths of 17 high school students? No, I do not. I blame the person who legally obtained the firearm and ammunition that made the massacre possible. I blame the broken system that allowed such a powerful weapon to be placed into the hands of a known threat. I blame the healthcare system for failing to provide affordable and effective mental health treatment to anyone who may need it. If action is not taken and changes are not made, I will blame our government and the politicians suckling the teat of the NRA who run it.

I spent some time reading the articles published on the NRA’s website, and I was convinced the words I was reading had to be satire. The writers use fear-mongering in the strongest sense to convince Americans that terrorist threats are imminent and that Democrats want to make sure you are unsafe and unprotected when the time comes. Dom Raso, a retired Navy Seal wrote:

“Here’s a common-sense solution to stopping terror attacks: Make sure law-abiding citizens are prepared to deal with the imminent threats we face. Hillary Clinton is prepared. She knows ARs are a powerful defense against radical Islamic terrorists. That’s why she’s been surrounded by guards armed with them for the past three decades. AR-15s are fine for Hillary and her family. But average Americans who watch the news and feel genuine fear for their families’ safety—she wants to deny them the level of protection she insists upon herself.

I fought this enemy face-to-face for 12 years, so I know how they think and I know the hatred that burns inside them. I urge every law-abiding American to take measures to defend yourself. Arm yourself. Get the proper training. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Demand your national right to carry—and use it.

This threat is real. And the AR-15 is one of the most effective tools available to protect yourself and your family. Embrace your freedom. Buy one if you want to. Train and learn how to use it. Your safety is in your hands. And keep fighting for our Second Amendment rights.”

Our deadliest shootings are not happening in the name of terrorism, and a radical terrorist is not breaking into our homes at night as an act of terrorism. The threat to our safety is from our own citizens with weapons purchased legally within our borders. The two acts of terror committed with gun violence were both performed with legally obtained weapons: The Chattanooga, Tennessee and San Bernardino massacres. Abdulazeez’s motives were driven by an unknown foreign terrorist organization and Farook and Malik’s motives were self-radicalized. Farook and Malik also were found with over a thousand rounds of ammunition, also purchased legally (NY Times).

In the NRA’s list of “Top Ten Reasons to Own an AR-15,” the following is given as one of those reasons: “…The gun is easy to shoot—and easy to hit targets with. And, as you know, nothing’s more fun than hitting what you shoot at.” The article also boasts of its ease of use in regards to “teaching youngsters the skill of accurate rifle shooting… I’ve yet to take a beginner—young or old—out to shoot an AR-15 without them getting a huge smile on their face” (Chestnut). Perhaps instead of teaching children to shoot a rifle, we teach them how to properly process his or her emotions. We teach children how to handle and address anxiety, trauma, and sadness. We offer mental health evaluations and treatment to people of all ages at an affordable rate. I appreciate and respect the hobby of owning, collecting, and shooting guns for sport. However, I maintain the stance that the time to take action is now. We must uphold our Constitution while understanding that the breathing document must change with the times—the times that currently hold the deaths of 17 high school students and countless others we must never forget. Your home can be protected without the assistance of a semi-automatic rifle, and I implore you to explore other options as we attempt any solution possible to prevent further innocent deaths in our country. We have had too many funerals for the victims of mass shootings for any person to instead be mourning the loss of a weapon.

My name is Katherine. I am an American. And I am saying #NeverAgain.