Our kids should not have to triage their own generation

To the growing number of people who are caught up in gun violence, this does not feel like freedom, and it does not feel like safety.
A poinsettia and candle were placed May 20 in the round driveway in the back of the Austin Residence Complex at Kennesaw State University, where Kennesaw State University student Alasia Franklin was shot to death during a dispute on campus Saturday. (John Spink/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: John Spink

Credit: John Spink

A poinsettia and candle were placed May 20 in the round driveway in the back of the Austin Residence Complex at Kennesaw State University, where Kennesaw State University student Alasia Franklin was shot to death during a dispute on campus Saturday. (John Spink/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

My 19-year-old daughter witnessed the May 18 shooting at Kennesaw State University firsthand. My husband and I were away in Austin when she called us, sobbing. After assuring us that she was physically OK, she told us of the nightmare that had just taken place before her.

She and her best friend had been spending a quiet Saturday afternoon on the ground floor of their campus dorm when they heard several gunshots close by.

“Mom, people asking, ‘Are those gunshots?’, must have never heard real gunshots. There’s no mistaking them,” she cried.

Credit: Photo contributed by the candidate

icon to expand image

Credit: Photo contributed by the candidate

Startled, my daughter and her friend looked out their window and saw a young woman lying on the pavement nearby with “blood all over her.” My daughter called 911, and she and her friend ran to gather a washcloth and a belt. They could see that the victim’s arm had been shot, and they thought they could help by fashioning a tourniquet for the wound. But the 911 responder told them not to approach the wounded girl, for fear that the shooter might still be in the area.

So they watched. As the girl’s bloody body twitched on the pavement, they watched, helplessly, as her life bled away before first responders could reach her. Later, my husband and I helplessly listened from hundreds of miles away as our girl wept and wept and wept.

The parents of that dear young woman who was shot and killed by yet another angry man with a gun received a far more devastating phone call that Saturday. But hearing about the horror that my daughter had witnessed and how it was affecting her was gut-wrenching nonetheless.

The trauma of a nation that lives in the constant shadow of school shootings and movie theater shootings and club shootings and concert shootings and church shootings and hospital shootings and library shootings and synagogue shootings and grocery store shootings and office building shootings is somehow not enough to finally persuade us to reevaluate our approach to firearms. My Democratic colleagues and I have labored in the General Assembly to bring some sense to conversations regarding gun safety, but we are rebuffed at every turn. I don’t think Georgians want to live this way, but that does not matter to a majority party that is so fixated on what a few people might possibly lose that they have missed the magnitude of all that we have already lost.

We have lost our faith in each other, as citizens committed to uphold common values. Legislation alone cannot rebuild this, but restoring mutual trust can start by living together within a set of rules. But when it comes to gun safety, Georgia’s laws are too flimsy to build foundation of trust upon.

The General Assembly needs to repeal our permitless carry law, which removes every guardrail around carrying a loaded weapon in public. Because convicted felons and other criminals who are barred from gun ownership can still buy guns very easily online or at gun shows, where no background check is needed, we should require a background check with every gun purchase — no loopholes. Safe gun storage can become the norm. This reduces the chance that children and young people will accidentally stumble on a deadly weapon during playtime. (Foster parents in Georgia already are required by to keep firearms under lock and key.)

Fewer homicides, suicides and accidents by firearms would provide a safer society for our state and our nation. This can be accomplished without suspending the constitutional right to bear arms.

A young woman full of promise was shot on a college campus and left for dead, the only witnesses being a small group of kids not even old enough to drink. My daughter and the millions of others like her who have been terrorized by the sudden eruption of gun violence should not have to see the same images of blood and death that soldiers on a battlefield might witness. Our kids should not have to triage their own generation. But we have made our entire public life into a shooting gallery in the name of “freedom” and “safety.”

Are we safe yet?

Karen Lupton, a Democrat, represents District 83 in the Georgia House of Representatives.