On April 20th, 1999 two students walked into Columbine High School in Colorado equipped with multiple firearms after an attempt to bomb the school, but the explosives failed to detonate.
The shooters killed 13 people and injured more than 20 before turning their guns on themselves.
Throughout the next year after the Columbine massacre, more than 800 new bills were introduced in relation to guns. There have been 122 people killed in mass school shootings since Columbine, including the perpetrators. This number does not include the millions of people whose lives are affected by gun violence every day.
As gun control became the hot debate, Vice President Al Gore cast a tie-breaking vote within the Senate which would require background checks for guns purchased at gun shows and safety devices for new guns that were sold. However, the bill stalled in the House of Representatives after both sides grew disappointed with the changes and compromises that were made.
Now, 19 years and 10 school shootings later, it feels as though there has been little action to combat gun violence in the United States.
The Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Act was passed as a part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which banned assault weapons. The legislation expired in September of 2004.
While the act outlawed assault weapons the loopholes in the legislation were grave. In reality, there is no true definition of an assault weapon. Fully automatic weapons fire uninterrupted when the trigger is held down (regulated since 1934) and there are semiautomatic weapons that automatically reload but fire once when the trigger is pulled.
While this act was in effect, it was illegal to manufacture assault weapons for private citizens.Though it was still legal for any weapon that fell into the automatic or semi-automatic weapon to be resold, as long as it was made before the bill was enacted.
Many states have enacted their own gun legislation, but on the federal level, it has been difficult to pass bipartisan gun legislation of any kind.
While Columbine used to be listed as one of the top 10 deadliest mass shootings in the United States, on February 14th, 2018, Marjory Stoneman Douglas knocked Columbine off of the list.
This time it seems as though people are actually listening to the students from Parkland, Florida. The students of Columbine have been advocating for gun reform since 1999 (along with the victims of other mass shootings), and now Stoneman Douglas students have joined them.
On March 24th, the students of Parkland held a rally, a “March for Our Lives,” to protest gun violence and push for gun reform. They were joined by students of Columbine, Sandy Hook, and other victims of gun violence.
Throughout the rally, there was an emphasis on racial injustice and gun violence, as well as students taking on representatives who are supported by the NRA, an organization that advocates for gun rights and has also paid many politicians who support the same ideologies that they do.
The students of Parkland advocated for gun reform overall, not just gun reform that would directly impact schools because it’s not just schools. It’s movie theaters, churches, night clubs, grocery stores, concerts, post offices, restaurants, and communities that are torn apart by gun violence every day.
While 19 years may have passed since the Columbine High School shooting, the effects of April 20th, 1999 are still impacting the lives of many today.
To learn more about advocating for gun reform and fighting to end gun violence, please use the links below: