Maybe it was the fact that Las Vegas is my hometown.  Or that it was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.  Either way, 59 people were dead and over 500 were injured.  This time, I thought, something had to change.

Wrong.

It took a school shooting five months later at Stoneman Douglas and the lives of 17 students to rattle policymakers enough that they would actually put pencil to paper.  This action follows 1,607 mass shootings over the past six years.  Even so, any change to gun laws so far have been marginal at best. This tells me that, for Washington, it’s not about numbers.  It’s not about how many men and women and children were murdered.  Only after high school students at Stoneman Douglas, and later all over the nation, took a stand and held their representatives’ feet to the fire that something—not much, but something nonetheless—was done.  

The problem lies in the American culture America surrounding guns—specifically, in the way we react to tragedies like mass shootings.  America has more mass shootings than any other country in the world, and after each one, it has become a societal norm for people to turn to “thoughts and prayers.”  For instance, after the Las Vegas shooting, Fox News host Howard Kurtz tweeted, “Gun control is a legitimate issue, but for the Dems already raising it after Las Vegas massacre, could we just have a day before plunging in.”  It’s rhetoric we see replicated over and over again, inundating Twitter feeds after a tragedy that many people don’t know how to react to.  It’s not unique to one side, either.  I was speaking with a friend from high school, who is a liberal Berkeley student, about the Vegas shooting a few days after it happened.  He told me he was “sickened” by the immediate politicization of such a tragedy—why can’t we let people mourn before we talk politics?

Because politics is the sensible response to a tragedy that is a result of bad gun laws.  The only way to actually get something done, to prevent future lives from being taken, is to plunge headfirst into these issues.  What do you need that day for? Do you think you’re doing mourning families a favor by putting off much-needed discussion? Tell that to the victims, who didn’t have a day when they were shot, or to their families who didn’t have a day to say goodbye. 

It’s a cycle of trite statements and hollow condolences, of thoughts and prayers that culminate into inaction and shun politics.  Talking politics after a mass shooting is not a sign of disrespect or disregard.  It’s not bickering blindly over laws with no regard for grieving families.  At its core, politics is all of us coming together as Americans to figure out how we can change laws and change lives.  It’s a rational and proportionate response to a mass shooting to ask what can we do as a society to prevent future mass shootings.   

More importantly, it makes sense that we talk about it while it’s fresh in our minds, while we feel the pain of loss and frustration with ludicrous gun laws.  If we don’t, slowly these feelings of anger and passion will dissipate with the coverage of the tragedy, as it falls back in the news cycle.  There’s a reason why many NRA-funded Republican politicians want to wait to talk politics.  It’s a strategy to wait until something feels less important and less people are paying attention.  After the Las Vegas shooting, a gun bill was debated that very week. That’s the time to plunge in.  Gun laws will only change while they are part of the national conversation, so that lawmakers can be held accountable as the country watches. 

The students of Marjory Stoneman Dougulass know that.  They know that if they stop speaking out, we forget, and we stop caring.  These high schoolers have broken the cycle that follows mass shootings, where shock gives way to disillusionment, and the voices of the fallen are lost in the abyss with those of other abandoned victims.  It’s absolutely crucial that the conversation maintains its momentum through 2018.  Keep your candidates talking about gun violence.  Make it an issue like healthcare and immigration.  It’s a long road to finding a solution, but we’ve finally started the journey.  

Alicia Sun is a Trinity sophomore. Her column runs on alternate Tuesdays.