February 3, 2015 is one day that Mercer University will remember for many years to come. Amidst the excitement of basketball season, graduate student and basketball player Jibri Bryan’s life was brought to a sudden end when he was shot in the head and killed February 2nd just down the road from campus.
The entire Mercer, and Macon community was shocked, scared, and in a tremendous amount of emotional pain. But instead of withdrawing into themselves, an amazing show of community emerged instead. Facebook feeds filled with prayers for the family, and a candlelight vigil for Bryan was immediately arranged. Standing on the basketball court surrounded by hundreds of other students, ones who knew Bryan and ones who didn’t, I had never felt more a part of the university community. Even students who didn’t know Bryan shed tears at the huge show of emotional support. At the end of the vigil we extinguished our candles but not our memory of what had occurred just a day earlier.
While Bryan’s death was the first documented homicide in Macon for the year, in the past few months and years, the nation has seen account after account of slain individuals. It seems that every other week now there is a big story in the news concerning someone who was shot and killed. We all remember the cases of the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado; Trayvon Martin; Mike Brown; Dylann Roof’s attack on a Charleston, South Carolina Church; and the numerous amounts of school shootings since Sandy Hook. If gun violence is a regular occurrence nationwide, why aren’t we doing anything about it? Even though these incidences caused huge public uproar, when it comes to making policy changes we always end up at a stalemate. More than 11,000 people are murdered by guns every year and yet our restrictions on who can purchase a gun remain lax.
The presidential elections could be the chance to get some real momentum going to fix our gun control policies. Whether you think less guns on the market will lead to less violence, or that more guns will allow people to protect themselves, it is likely that nothing will change until a new president takes office.
*The following is a rundown of the 2016 Presidential candidates gun control platforms.
Hilary Clinton has supported "common sense" gun reforms, meaning the former Secretary of State believes legislation can be passed without violating the Second Amendment. Clinton has also supported limits on gun sales, extending the assault weapons ban, and in 2013 backed legislation requiring universal background checks on gun purchases.
Bernie Sanders is a more mixed voting record on gun control than Clinton. The candidate voted against the 1993 Brady Act, which called for national background checks, but more recently, 2013, voted to expand background checks. After the Sandy Hook shooting Sanders also supported a ban on assault weapons.
Donald Trump states that "protecting our second amendment rights will Make America Great Again". The candidate also stated that he would "unsign" Obama's plans to tighten gun control via executive action
Marco Rubio also opposed the above stated 2013 amendment.
Change starts with us, we, the millennials, are poised to be the most powerful generation. As such we need to act like it and vote like it. Before you go into the voting booth this March for primary elections and November for the general election, make sure you're versed on all the issues, especially the ones as pressing as gun control. The more these events occur the more the public begins to see that we do in fact need stricter regulations, and sometimes it takes a tragedy close to you to truly open your eyes. Here is the opportunity to make our country a safer place.
No community should have to experience events like these and I want to thank Mercer for showing so much support in the face of this tragedy. To current students, alumni, faculty, parents and community members; Together We Bear Strong.
Lead Image Credit: 13wmaz.com