Ellen Inggrid Dengah—Staff Writer
For one of my art class last semester, I had to dive into the topic of gun violence, including Trump’s infamous comment that was said on Dordt’s campus about how he would not lose a vote even if he was to shoot someone. I naively thought that the issue of gun violence was irrelevant to Northwest Iowa since most of our data came from the city of Chicago. I had overlooked the U.S.’s troubling relationship with firearms that goes beyond state borders: that is, its symbolic and ideological relationship.
I came from a country where guns are held exclusively by the military, never civilians; an assault rifle in the hand of a civilian does as much to make me feel anxious as it does to make some Americans feel empowered. Here in the U.S, the right to hold firearms as a means of independence from the federal government (and some debates, as a means of self-preservation) is guaranteed by the second amendment. Gun owners and the relentless civil rights organization called the National Rifle Association are fighting for their bestowed upon liberty. This liberty to bear arms, though, comes at the cost of the first unalienated right guaranteed by the U.S constitution—life.
There have been at least two major mass shootings in America since I got here in 2014; forty-nine people lost their lives in Orlando, and fifty-eight people were killed in Vegas. From last year alone, the cost of the people’s right to bear arms against its own government was 104 civilians, who were killed by other civilians. There have been no uprisings against federal authority, nor did anyone successfully use their personal handguns to protect themselves against the Orlando or Las Vegas shooters.
The United States of America is a free country, but nothing in life comes free of consequences.
The U.S. ideology of individual liberty and its symbolic manifestation in firearms have allowed so many people to take innocent lives as well as their own lives. No civilian is ever allowed to take another’s life, but this right is offered when they are allowed the means to do it. The Vegas shooter was guaranteed the freedom of equipping himself with 47 firearms without accountability. Even if the Vegas shooter were to find other legal weapons to kill 58 people and injured 500 more from the 32nd floor hotel room, the finality of gun fatality is undeniable.
Nowhere else does gun fatality carry as much weight than in suicide attempts. Every year, the number of deaths by gun suicide outnumbers the population of Sioux Center, Orange City, and Hawarden combined. Studies after studies have brought up the increased risk of suicide when a gun is present in the house. Suicide represents more than half of gun violence deaths; firearms grant power to the people to end their lives prematurely, abandoning their pursuit of happiness.
There is no such thing as complete freedom, and even the majority of gun owners believe in some form of gun regulation. I still do not have all of the answers to gun violence, and I’m not trying to humiliate anybody who owns a gun. I cannot vote on anything while I’m studying here, nor do I want to. I’m just hoping that while I am here, nobody will use their right to bear arms to take away my right to live.