Pleading the second

By Laura Grimm

grimmla@mnstate.edu

I had just landed when I heard about Fort Lauderdale.

After stepping off the plane, my phone began buzzing as texts poured in. They were all from a group message with my mother and sister. My stomach sank as I read the conversation. It provided little context, but one thing was clear: something bad had happened at an airport, and my family was worried that something would happen to me too.

For the families of five victims, those worries became a reality impossible to recover from.

With 15 bullets in a completely legal gun, Esteban Santiago killed five people and wounded six others at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Jan. 6, 2017.

His only luggage was a checked bag with the 9mm handgun he used to commit the killings. In November, that gun was briefly taken away from him by officers in Anchorage, Alaska.

The reason? He claimed he was hearing voices and that the government was controlling his mind. After a few days, they released him with anti-anxiety medication—and his gun.

Despite displaying mental health issues, he was allowed to fly with that gun. The TSA regulates a gun must be locked in a hard case and unloaded, although certain ammunition can be transported in the same case.

As someone who went through firearms safety classes, I know it doesn’t take long to load a gun even for those with little experience. For an ex-member of the Alaska Army National Guard, all it took was a short trip to the bathroom.

But this isn’t about what he did. It’s about how he did it.

Gun reform has been a hot topic for years, and it’s obvious it will be for many more. The two polarized sides paint the other as wanting no regulations or a total ban, yet the majority of citizens fall somewhere in-between.

My family has more guns than people; I don’t believe citizens shouldn’t be allowed to have them. However, that doesn’t mean everyone should be allowed to have one, as this latest shooting demonstrates. There have to be regulations on who can own a gun, where they can bring it and what kind they can have. Frankly, it’s common sense.

Common sense doesn’t seem to be all that common. The entire controversy over guns is based on fear—from both sides—and it’s working because we’re all afraid. Afraid of losing our rights, afraid of dying, afraid of everything. It’s OK to be afraid, but that doesn’t mean we should let our fear cloud our judgement.

The Second Amendment did not expect shootings at airports, movie theaters, malls, colleges or elementary schools. It didn’t anticipate firearms that can kill a dozen people in mere minutes. But at the same time, that doesn’t mean legislators can scrap an entire constitutional amendment.

I’m no expert, and I don’t claim to be. I don’t know how to combat shootings or domestic terrorism. I don’t know what’s best for our country or how to stop innocent people from dying. But the one thing I do know is that something has to change.

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