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By LEANN RAY – OCTOBER 31, 2023 5:57 AM

The Columbine High School Massacre, the deadliest high school shooting until Parkland in 2018, happened on April 20, 1999, during my freshman year of high school. After this, there were fake bomb threats frequently at my school. The faculty would either herd us all outside to the football field or into the gym, and each time someone would say, “What if this was a trick to get us all together to make it easier to shoot us?”

That was 24 years ago. Since 1999, there have been 121 mass shootings in the U.S. There’s only been one year since 1999 with no mass shootings — 2002. 

Just last week in Maine, a man walked into a bowling alley, then a bar, and shot and killed 18 people and injured 13 others. The suspect was found dead on Friday. 

The White House called on Congress to strengthen gun safety laws in the wake of this shooting, but I don’t think any of us are holding our breath. If nothing was done after multiple elementary school shootings, why would lawmakers do something now?

Will lawmakers not care about mass shootings until one takes someone they love from them or it happens too close to home? Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine, opposed gun safety measures until the mass shooting in his hometown — now he’s reversed his stance and asked for forgiveness.

“I have opposed efforts to ban deadly weapons of war, like the assault rifle used to carry out this crime,” Golden said at a news conference Thursday. “The time has now come for me to take responsibility for this failure, which is why I now call on the United States Congress to ban assault rifles like the one used by the sick perpetrator of this mass killing in my hometown of Lewiston, Maine.”

West Virginia lawmakers have continued to make it easier for residents to carry guns almost everywhere without a permit, including college campuses, but don’t worry  — guns aren’t allowed in the state Capitol near our legislators.

The governor and legislators were foaming at the mouth to pass a poorly thought-out campus carry bill that doesn’t even consider safety measures colleges and universities will have to take or funding for metal detectors and gun safes. There’s no uniform rule on how to store students’ guns, or where they’ll be allowed on campus — this is another problem schools will have to worry about while many are already struggling with debt. The law will go into effect in July 2024.

When I took night classes at WVU, I can’t say there was ever a time I wasn’t anxious when I was walking home alone from class after dark. I was worried about someone grabbing me. Never did I think about someone shooting me. I’m concerned for the young women who will now have to worry about men they do and don’t know who may be lurking around campus with a gun and a temper — two-thirds of mass shootings have been linked to domestic disputes. 

Gov. Jim Justice said he was “proud” to sign the campus carry bill into law.

“We just hope and pray that there’s never a problem,” Justice said. “We can’t ensure in any way that there won’t be a problem.”

A better way to ensure fewer “problems” would be to have fewer guns — when there’s fewer guns, there’s less incidents of gun homicides. There have been hundreds of unintentional shootings across the United States this year alone — and those are just the ones that have been reported. 

In states that allow more guns, there’s a higher rate of child suicide. Between 2001 and 2007, 117 children committed suicide by gun in states that have high numbers of guns, like Alamaba, South Carolina and Wyoming. In states with fewer guns, like Massachusetts, New York and Hawaii, only 10 children used guns to commit suicide during that same time period.

I’m not completely anti-gun. If you want a gun in your home, fine. If you like to go hunting, then yes, of course you have some guns in your home. But no one needs to have a gun on them at all times. No one needs a military grade weapon on their back to go to Walmart or the grocery store or the movie theater or a place of worship or to school.

What should we do?

Often when there’s talk of gun control, gun rights supporters will say, “Guns don’t kill people — people kill people.” OK, then some people shouldn’t have guns. If someone wants to own a gun, they should go through testing and training to see if they’re fit to own a gun. If we do it for cars — which were made for travel, but can be deadly — why not do it for something made for the sole purpose to kill? 

I’m not saying people should be trained to be snipers, but some classes on gun safety and background checks would be helpful to make sure guns aren’t going into the wrong hands. And yes, just like people with suspended licenses, some people will still break the law. But less will do so.

OK, don’t want to give up permitless concealed carry? Then West Virginia should consider a red flag law, which allows the temporary removal of firearms from a person that is believed to be a danger to themself or others. 

Maybe before passing bills to allow guns in more public spaces, politicians should be forced to watch video or listen to audio of a mass shooting, then go through a 72-hour waiting period before they vote. Wouldn’t want them to make an irrational decision.

** West Virginia Watch is a nonprofit media source. Articles are shared under creative commons license. Please visit https://westvirginiawatch.com/ for more independent Mountain State news coverage.

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