With Kalamazoo, It Keeps Hitting Closer to Home

Throughout my life, hearing about mass shootings around the country would elicit a mixed response. On one hand, I immediately felt extremely saddened and confused about the situation. Why are people killing each other? Why does this keep happening? It’s such a painful and complex thing to try and grasp. But on the other hand, I’d be thanking the heavens that it wasn’t somewhere near me or happening to someone I knew.

But then it was.

When the shooting in Charleston happened last year, something changed for me. This wasn’t a far way place anymore with people I didn’t know; this was right in my backyard, in the place I had lived for some of the most important and significant years of my life. Like most of the country, I was in shock, and horrified to learn about the events that unfolded, but this time was different for me. This time, I had people I needed to check up on, there was an immediate threat to the people I love and the town that helped shape me. I was calling friends and refreshing Facebook constantly, hoping to get confirmation that people I loved were alright.

I didn’t know anyone who was killed that day, but I just as easily could have. It was a wake-up call for me, a moment in which I realized this could and would happen to anyone, anywhere. Even through Sandy Hook, through Boston, through Aurora, I kept having this ignorant belief that these things don’t happen that often and they certainly won’t have a direct impact on my life. But they do, and they have.

When I heard the news coming out of Kalamazoo this weekend, the same feeling of horror came rushing over me. There was an active shooter randomly killing people in my state, in my town. Kalamazoo is not just where I go to school, but it’s where myself and countless members of my family and friends live or have lived. It’s also just a short drive from the majority of my family and the community I grew up in.

This was wasn’t just close to home, this one was right outside my front door.

The lives lost in Kalamazoo (clockwise from top left): Mary Jo Nye, Mary Lou Nye, Barbara Hawthorn, Rich Smith, Tyler Smith, Dorothy Brown.

The shooter in Kalamazoo killed members of my community, family friends who had worked at my family’s restaurant, friends and relatives of people I know. The only closer he could have gotten to me would be to kill a member of my family, and that is one of the scariest thoughts I’ve ever had in my life. Had myself or someone I love been at the wrong place at the wrong time on Saturday night, one of the victims from this tragic event could have been us.

It haunts me that every few months another shooting takes people closer and closer to my life. These shootings are getting so common and so widespread that as each moment passes my frame of mind changes from worrying about the if to worrying about the when. For so many people the horrible phone call has already come, and I cannot begin to imagine the pain and grief they must feel. It is just so incredibly heartbreaking to know that time and time again these people are being told by the government’s lack of action for gun control that these kind of events are inevitable.

I don’t want to live in a world where random mass killings are inevitable. I can’t live in that world.

Yet unfortunately, my young cousins are already growing up in that world. They hear about mass homicide so regularly that it is becoming commonplace in their lives. Even Kalamazoo’s story is already fading out of the media’s view and it has barely been 48 hours since it happened. That is unacceptable. We cannot continue to allow gun violence and murder to be integral part of American society. The loss of innocent lives cannot continue to just be a news blurb. Things need to change and they need to change now.

Guns are a controversial issue, but in all seriousness, they shouldn’t be. No other major country has a comparable amount of guns in relation to their population, much less comparable gun-related violence and homicide. The facts are clear and they are absolute; Guns are not a solution, they are a problem.

If we can’t stop them now when they are leading to the murders of our friends and families, our neighbors and coworkers, when can we? At what point does it become a serious enough issue to tackle? Or worse yet, at what point is it too late?


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