Column: Stop Treating Gun Violence Like its Normal

Opinion editor Aidan Cahill expresses frustration at how normalized gun violence has become.

Content warning: Gun violence

Every time there’s a major shooting, a conversation is had about whether or not to publish an opinion on it. 

We had it back in October after a gunman killed 18 people in a bowling alley in Maine and most recently after one person was killed and 22 were injured at the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl Parade

At this point, we’re at a loss. There’s only so many times you can express outrage, sympathy and fear before it becomes repetitive. It feels like there’s nothing more the editorial board or I can say about this issue that hasn’t been said already. 

But that conversation exposes the problem — gun violence in the United States is treated as something normal. In Chicago, someone has been made a victim of gun violence every day this year as of Feb. 20, reaching a grand total of 233 victims in less than 100 days, according to the city of Chicago. Nationwide in 2021, 44,701 people died due to firearms, according to the Center for Disease Control. 

Beyond the numbers, there are subtle ways gun violence has become normalized. This can be seen in the little white box installed in most rooms at Loyola designed to secure the door against a threat or in the 550 Stop the Bleed Kits Chicago installed in public buildings in 2022. It can be seen every time you enter a venue with a clear bag policy and walk into a business with a sticker on the door prohibiting firearms.

Whether we realize it or not, the threat of gun violence has permeated everything we interact with on a daily basis. 

Gun violence at this scale isn’t normal. We aren’t being invaded by a foreign power, we aren’t involved in a civil war of some sort and, to the best of my knowledge, society hasn’t collapsed. This amount of violence in what is supposed to be an “exceptional” nation shouldn’t be normal at all. Yet it became an important part of my youth. 

I distinctly remember when my schools strengthened security measures in light of this threat. In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting in 2013, the Catholic school I attended reduced the number of usable entrances to one and put a locked door between where classrooms were and the rest of the school. In high school, after the Parkland shooting in 2018, an armed guard was hired to protect the school in the event of an attack.

It seems as though those who will have to respond to the act of violence are the only ones doing anything about it. The tactics employed by law enforcement, fire/EMS, educators and local community leaders are constantly evolving to try and save more lives when there’s a major shooting.

While these actions are heroic and deserve praise, there should be an equal amount of anger for the fact that more drastic actions haven’t been taken. Examining how other countries react to gun violence proves there are ways for things to get better.

In the immediate aftermath of two mass shootings in Serbia which left 18 people dead, Serbian citizens willingly surrendered over 100,000 unregistered guns in 2023, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. In New Zealand, 50,000 guns were collected in a buyback program initiated after 51 people were killed in a mass shooting at two mosques in 2019, according to the Associated Press.

I could go on seemingly forever about what other countries have done to stop gun violence, but those points have been said much more eloquently by others. 

To go back to the initial impetus for this piece, why bother publishing anything in the first place? 

Because I’m tired of this. I’m tired of feeling the same fear for my teacher mother as I did for my soldier father. I’m tired of seeing my fellow student newspapers have to publish heartbreaking editorials after someone opened fire on their campus. I’m tired of carrying a tourniquet in my camera bag when I cover protests because I’ve been taught you have to assume everyone is armed. 

I could propose specific policies about how to fix this problem but I’ve lost the energy to even try. Nothing changed after Vegas, Parkland, Pulse, Sandy Hook, Uvalde, Virginia Tech, Michigan State or any of the others. If the list of people killed and places forever associated with gun violence hasn’t led to serious action yet, then nothing will. 

Still, despite knowing there’s no way this could change, I just want to scream that this is not normal.

Feature image by Austin Hojdar / The Phoenix

Aidan Cahill

Aidan Cahill