Walkout Speech: Gun Violence in the US


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SILVER SPRING, MD – FEBRUARY 21: Students from Montgomery Blair High School march down Colesville Road in support of gun reform legislation February 21, 2018 in Silver Spring, Maryland. In the wake of last week’s shooting in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed, the students planned to take public transportation to the U.S. Capitol to hold a rally demanding legislation to curb gun violence in schools. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Thomas Hollinger, Contributer

The speech below was delivered by Thomas Hollinger during the school Walk Out on April 20. 

Good Morning,

As you may know, my name is Thomas Hollinger. Over the past couple weeks I’ve gone to the several meetings totaling about six and a half hours regarding gun violence. Going into this I knew it was going to be troubling.

My grandfather learned to handle a rifle when he was 8. He frequently was sent out to hunt ducks and rabbits after school so that his family would have meat for dinner. He taught my mother and her siblings to hunt when they were about 10. She never went hunting much and stopped around 13 when my grandfather said she had to clean what she caught. They never shot anything that wasn’t used as food. Additionally, my dad grew up in a part of Pennsylvania where hunting was extremely common. Often times, a family would not be able to afford meat if they didn’t hunt it. A deer would be shot and it would be frozen so the family would have venison for months. A first gun was a rite of passage among parents and their children.

Even considering that both my parents are very familiar with guns and know how to handle them, they made a conscious decision not to have them in their home. Their view is that while a gun could always be used to protect against intruders, an accident because of children around or even the intruder taking the gun themselves is too much of a risk. My dad would strongly advise against having a gun in the house to anyone who would listen.

My mom once had a colleague named Jody Marchand. We were friends with her and family and I’d see them every once in a while. Brian, her husband, was mentally stable, and the couple and their daughter seemed happy. Brian was also a hunter, who had a collection of guns. He had a gun safe in his barn, and he kept a handgun in his bedside table. One evening, in an argument with his wife, he took out the handgun and started waving it around. His wife called 911. Their 18-year old daughter came into the room. In some momentary loss of thought, Brian shot his beloved daughter. He was so distraught by what he had done, the only thing he could think to do was kill his wife and then himself. His wife survived to tell the story, and believes that if that handgun hadn’t been there, they would still be a happy family — that if he had had to walk down the stairs, go to the gun safe, and take out a hunting rifle, he would have realized what he was doing, and stopped. Brian was mentally fit, and his gun was not a semi-automatic, it was a handgun. He was exactly the type of person that society thinks should be allowed to have guns. Tragedies just like this are happening around our country with a disturbing frequency.

Now coming from a liberal household in a liberal state, it should be obvious what my views on guns are. In my opinion, the 2nd amendment, which includes a well regulated militia, should not guarantee the ease of access to owning and purchasing a gun to the extent that it does. One my father’s complaint is that it is easier to get a gun license in Massachusetts than a license to set off fireworks. To get a fireworks license, one must be actively employed on a crew for professional fireworks displays for a minimum of 3 years, and they must have 2 letters of endorsement from 2 other certificate holders. Even in Massachusetts, however, the gun laws aren’t nearly as strict.

There are two main types of firearms licenses in Massachusetts, a Firearms Identifications Card, and Licensed to Carry. Let’s talk about the less stringent Firearms Identification Cards, FID for short. In Massachusetts, an FID permits the purchase, possession, and transportation of non-large-capacity rifles, shotguns, and ammunition. In order to receive an FID, one must go through a one day class in armed safety. That qualifies an application for an FID. As long as they pass a short background check, they have the right to purchase, possess and transportation non-large-capacity rifles, shotguns, and ammunition. To recap, for Fireworks, 3 years training, 2 letters of recommendation FID, one day class. And yet, Massachusetts has some of the most limiting gun laws in the country. According to the New York Times, Massachusetts is one of the few states to receive an A, regarding gun laws.

Consider this: it is significantly harder to set off fireworks or drive in Massachusetts than to own a gun. Are fireworks really more dangerous than guns? And remember, Massachusetts, has extremely limiting gun laws compared to the rest of the country. In some states, you can go to a gun show and lawfully purchase firearms without any sort of license. As the sale is unofficial, if I lived in one of these states, I could go and purchase a gun without any such background checks.

Are these really the types of laws that we want to live by? As states must recognize each other’s gun laws, it is clear to me, at least, that these issues can’t be solved on a state by state basis; there must be action at federal level.

An article by the Washington Post reported that of the 292 guns used in mass shootings only 49 were obtained illegally. The national post reports several of the gunmen who obtained guns lawfully would have failed a background check if the system had worked.

I understand the need for hunting, and I understand the 2nd amendment. But we need a system that protects us and we need it now. We need to keep such dangerous guns out of the hands of people who are unfit. Otherwise, tragedies, such as mass shootings in schools, movie theaters, and concerts, will continue. Somehow, we need to stop this.