Blood on your hands: A response to the UNC Chapel Hill shooting

guest column

On Aug. 28, Sen. Ted Budd of North Carolina tweeted that he was “closely following the tragic situation at UNC Chapel Hill” and that his team’s “hearts go out to the victim’s family and the UNC community.”


Ted Budd and the millions of hardline gun rights advocates who offer empty condolences have made it clear where their hearts lie, and it is not with the victim. It is not with the community. It is with the gun rights ideology that they have sold their souls to — the kind of ideology that has burned into our generation the chilling knowledge that our lives will always be worth less than a piece of metal.  

For as long as our generation can remember, we have been fighting a losing battle for the right to not be murdered in our classrooms. The average person in Duke or UNC’s junior class is 20 or 21, yet in barely two decades of life, we have witnessed countless mass shootings that drive home the fact that our lives have been forfeited from the start. We were in fourth grade for Sandy Hook, ninth for Parkland and our first year of college for Uvalde. One week ago, we had our first day of classes ripped apart by reports of a shooting less than 30 minutes from campus — a shooting that sent our brothers and sisters at UNC into lockdown. And when the dust settled, there was another dead body, another family whose father won’t come home for dinner.

So when politicians like Ted Budd — who owns a gun store, works with an insurance provider that supports gun owners facing domestic violence charges and has cosponsored 26 bills loosening gun regulations — express sympathy for the community, forgive me if I don’t believe them. It takes a special kind of hypocrite to express sorrow and solidarity with victims of gun violence while also waging war on common sense gun safety legislation, but gun rights legislators, donors and voters have mastered that hypocrisy. 

If at nine years old we could understand the horror of what had happened at Sandy Hook, then the adults in our lives should have too. Instead, what has been made clear to us over the years as we have marched and voted and pleaded for the violence to stop is that gun rights advocates do not care. They never did. Because when they looked at the faces of 20 innocent six-and-seven-year-old children and still chose their guns, they showed that no price is too high to pay. They stood unmovable as 19 fourth- and fifth-graders were gunned down in Uvalde, as 14 high schoolers bled out on classroom floors in Parkland, as a school bus carried away a wailing girl and as Zijie Yan was murdered in cold blood. 

With each child-sized coffin bought and each beloved teacher laid to rest, the fight for gun control grows more dire. Not a single person should have had to die for the violence to be stopped, but the reality is that within a few weeks or months, another student or teacher will likely lose their life, only for gun rights supporters to shrug their shoulders and move on once more. Since 2013, 374 people have been murdered on school grounds — 374 who should still be alive today. The second graders of Sandy Hook should be starting their freshman year of college, and the 14- and 15-year-olds from Parkland should be leading their orientation week activities. The Uvalde children should be starting middle school, and Zijie Yan should be running a research meeting for the group he headed. Instead, they are entries on the long list of victims whose deaths weren’t enough for gun rights activists to care. 

When it is finally achieved, gun control legislation will be written in the blood of those 374 and the further 13,000 who have died due to gun violence these past 10 years. Make no mistake; their blood is on the hands of every lawmaker who has voted “No” on gun reform, every NRA donor whose money funds the epidemic of gun violence and every person who makes the conscious decision to turn a blind eye to the people dying around them. Just because those people are not mentioned by name here does not mean they are absolved of their role in every one of these deaths, and just because they move on and wash their hands of this bloodshed does not mean we will.

Caroline Cornett is a Trinity junior.


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