Causing three fatalities in the past 40 years, Kinder eggs have been banned in the U.S. since 1938, the concern being that a toy encased in a chocolate shell could be potentially harmful to young children. But in 2013 alone, there were 11,208 homicides due to firearms recorded in the U.S. Recently, the state of Texas passed a bill allowing the concealed possession of firearms on college campuses. Only in America could a candy be seen as a greater threat than an assault weapon.
Although many Texan campuses have protested the law, its implementation resembles that of a dystopian society. The day the law came into effect, my high school, a private institution able to opt out of the law, had to erect signs at every entrance specifically prohibiting concealed firearms. For public universities like the University of Texas, options are more limited. The protest #CocksnotGlocks provided a cheeky response to a serious issue, pointing out the hypocrisy in banning sex toys in public but not firearms. Students, mostly women, carried dildos and vibrators openly in their backpacks around campus, with the motto “Fighting absurdity with absurdity.” The campaign garnered considerable publicity, but the law did not change. Guns have always been a proud centerpiece of Texan culture, and now they mingle with the bright young minds of the future. And nothing promotes the healthy exchange of ideas like an intellectual opponent packing heat.
Over a year later, on Sept. 26, a shooting occurred in Houston, Texas, five minutes away from my home and my school. Six people were hospitalized and even more treated on site in a quiet suburban shopping center. My mom had been doing errands there the day before. In an odd coincidence, the attack took place on Weslayan street, one letter away from my new residence. I didn’t know anyone personally involved, but I knew that quiet shopping square, and I knew the story all too well. A lone gunman “gone berserk,” dressed in a military uniform and Nazi imagery. This is hardly the largest or even most recent shooting in America, and that’s perhaps the most upsetting part. Mass shootings have become commonplace to the point of cliché. White male loner? Check. Homophobic/misogynistic/white supremacist tendencies? Check. Legal purchase of the firearm used to commit the act? Check.
Not enough people are looking to change the narrative. In December of last year, Senate Republicans blocked a bill banning members of the terrorist watch list from purchasing guns. We can no longer even pretend that lax gun regulation is a matter of security when we freely hand terrorists the weapons they use to kill us. Sure enough, the Orlando shooting last June was carried out by a member of the very same watch list: a premeditated, homophobic, racist, and transphobic attack played off in the media as an act of self-flagellation. By painting the shooter as a self-loathing gay man, straight people could shift the blame of a homophobic society and gun nuts could divert public attention away from Florida’s loose background checks. As the nation mourned the 133rd mass shooting that year, good-natured citizens wondered, “How could this have possibly happened?”
Maybe it’s just because I come from a state where NRA stickers blaze proudly on the back of pick-up trucks and Range Rovers alike, but I’m cynical about the future of gun restriction in America. This is a nation that proposed putting firearms in elementary schools in the wake of Sandy Hook. This is a nation where eight states believe the best accompaniment to a drunken frat boy is a concealed weapon in his backpack. America’s love affair with the firearm could rival that of any outlaw in a spaghetti western. We might as well get a pet name engraved on the bullet chamber, and without extreme legislative action, we’ll be prying guns out of our cold, dead hands for decades to come.
Brooke Kushwaha is a member of the class of 2020.