My name is Charlie Freyre, I’m a freshman at UW-Madison and I am writing my first column for the Badger Herald inside a locked dorm hall. No one is allowed in or out of the doors here — a shooter was just reported to be on the loose, armed and dangerous a few short blocks from where I live.
I am not originally from Madison. I’m from Southern Connecticut, an area that includes a school named Sandy Hook Elementary in a town called Newtown. I spent last summer with my aunt and uncle in Bethesda, Maryland, about 1.5 miles from the Washington, D.C. navy shipyard where eight lives were lost to a mass shooter.
The spate of mass shootings and gun violence in general is well-documented, and public discourse over the topic has been passionate, politically-charged and ubiquitous. The arguments for and against virtually any solution to the problem of gun violence have been hammered into the mind of anyone who pays even a little attention to current events, if only because of the repetitiveness with which they’ve been stated. If you’re taking the time to read a newspaper, your opinion on the matter is almost certainly well-defined and well-versed.
The purpose of this column isn’t to convince you to come around to my point-of-view. The horrific events of this week probably will do more to solidify than challenge your opinion, no matter where on the ideological spectrum it falls.
But if any good can come out of the horrific events that took place September 18, 2013 in our city, it’s a reminder that the discussion of gun violence and the search for a solution must continue.
Anyone even a little familiar with Madison has heard all the jokes about it and nicknames for it: “The People’s Republic of Madison” and “77 Square Miles Surrounded By Reality.” It’s easy to be an activist in a city where it’s hard to imagine bad things happening, where the real world seems so far away. But gun violence can occur anywhere — it is something that could potentially affect us all, or any of our loved ones.
What do a movie theater in Colorado, an elementary school in Connecticut, a shipyard in Washington D.C. and an engineering college in Virginia all have in common? Pretty much nothing. The terrifying nature of gun violence is the ubiquity of its strike potential. It’s a problem that can directly impact anyone, no matter how hard that is to imagine. As we’ve seen in the past few months, violence can occur in the most unlikely of places.
According to an official email to “Organizing for Action” (the official Political Pac for Barack Obama) members, nine out of 10 Americans support “common-sense measures” to prevent gun violence. Of course, “common-sense measure” is an incredibly subjective term that probably has a different meaning for every individual citizen.
What is certain, however, is that some sort of solution is needed. My challenge to anyone interested in finding this solution — and this should include everyone — is to avoid further hardening your pre-existing opinions and to see the legitimacy of compromise and third-way options. Recognize that the problem of gun violence is unique in the fact it can affect every individual in the United States, and in the fact that inaction exacerbates the problem. Doing nothing at all gradually makes violence the socially acceptable norm, even if we don’t realize it.
While many Americans are understandably frustrated by the inaction of our lawmakers, we have to accept the realities of the political situation. Some concessions must be made in order for any action to be taken, and even partially effective and nonideal legislation is better for all parties than an absence of resolution. Let this past week be a reminder that all of us need to be involved and working toward a direct impact on gun violence, before it directly impacts us.
Charlie Freyre (charlie.freyre