Photo Courtesy of justgrimes / Creative Commons

Voting Is Our Only Shot to Change Gun Laws

America has just fallen victim to yet another mass shooting. Seventeen people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. While school shootings are, tragically, a common occurrence, what makes this story different is that this time around, students have turned to activism in response to the shooting; they're planning marches and pushing for reform so publicly that the National Rifle Association is finally under fire from the public, politicians, and even corporations like MetLife, Hertz, and several airlines. That teenagers like Emma Gonzalez are leading the charge is empowering and creates hope; however, the sad reality remains that our politicians will likely not even attempt to change the laws. They did not in the past—even in 2012 when more than a dozen elementary school children were gunned down in Newtown, Conn.—so there is no reason to believe that Congress will do anything different this time around.

The State of Florida considered an assault weapons ban in the wake of the shooting, but it was swiftly voted down. (Instead, they quickly voted to label pornography as a public health crisis—go figure.) Why do our politicians—at least, most of the Republican ones—refuse to vote for common sense gun regulations? The NRA and other "public interest" organizations are allowed to donate millions of dollars to campaigns, inevitably putting politicians at the service of wealthy elites, corporations, and interest groups rather than the people, who overwhelmingly support much-needed gun reform. Marco Rubio, the Republican Senator of Florida, has received over $3 million in campaign contributions from the NRA. Politicians like him will never change the laws regarding guns, climate change, or other important issues with which elites would prefer not to deal. We need to vote them out and elect politicians who will not be sold to corporations and special interest groups so that our campaign finance laws can be changed. Only then can the government serve those they are supposed to serve: the American people.

Abysmal campaign finance laws aren’t the only things keeping self-interested, corrupt politicians in power, though—gerrymandering also plays its role. When our politicians are allowed to draw congressional districts, the party in power at the time of redistricting (which was the GOP the last time our districts were redrawn after the 2010 census) inevitably creates an advantage for that party. Gerrymandering is why Democrats only picked up six seats in the House and two seats in the Senate in 2016, despite having been favored in Congressional elections heading into November. If the US delegated the process of drawing congressional districts to an outside, non-partisan agency, every district would be drawn based only on population, not by political affiliation; this reform would allow the will of the people to be more clearly heard by politicians. The gridlock and inaction in Washington would then undoubtably be relieved.

This November, we need to vote for politicians who will enact campaign finance reform and bring an end to gerrymandering, and we must vote out any politician who won’t complete these tasks. Our problems are daunting, but they can be fixed, and something as simple as a vote is the way towards progress.