In the past two years, four mass shootings in Texas have claimed the lives of over 60 people. But time and time again, we see a cycle repeating itself: A mass shooting occurs, thoughts and prayers pour out, but we have to see systemic change from elected officials who were sworn by oath to protect us. In the op-ed, Monet Chantelle Woodhouse, Campus Organizer of the University of El Paso Deeds Chapter, talks about how the gun violence in Texas has impacted not only her hometown of El Paso, but also how it’s impacted her as a mother.
In the days following the El Paso shooting, I was left haunted, and my loving and unique city in complete shock. We never expected that a tragedy of this size could ever touch our close-knit, diverse community. On a personal level, it’s been a struggle to sleep at night for many weeks — my mind tormented with visions and nightmares of saving my 5-year-old daughter from different scenarios involving an active shooter. The fear has caused me to become vigilant of my surroundings now more than ever.
I feel like history has proven that there is no safe place for my daughter. She could be shot on our date night at the movies. She could be shot during our regular trip to the supermarket. She could be shot while attending the University of her dreams. She could even be gunned down while learning to write her name in her Kindergarten class.
Nothing prepares you for the heartbreaking moment when you have to explain to your child how to stay safe from an active shooter. With every conversation, she loses a piece of her childhood as she is forced to contemplate dangerous and life-threatening situations. It is obvious to politicians that our current system revolving around guns needs to be reformed.
I am grateful for the dozens of legislators who have called for a special session to solely address the issue of gun violence, fueled by white supremacy. It’s absolutely ridiculous that both the El Paso and the Odessa gunmen both had numerous complaints concerning their behavior and mental states, yet, both had access to military-grade weapons. How are our communities are safer when you can access a military-grade weapon without a background check? How can we as a border community be safe when state leaders refuse to accept responsibility for their racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric.
We can’t afford to wait until the next mass shooting to take action. I’d like to see legislation that limits, if not eradicates, access to military-grade weapons. Many of those weapons are designed to hit as many targets as possible, in the shortest time frame possible — weapons that do not belong in our communities, where we go to school, where we pray, where we work, and where we raise our children.
If there is a special session called, I’d like to see lawmakers concentrate on gun violence and gun violence only. Some leaders are taking the issue of gun violence and conflating it with their own anti-choice agendas. We’ve seen this is in their playbook before — using a special session to also peddle anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ+, and anti-immigrant policies to further disenfranchise our most vulnerable. It hurts me to know that the pain of my city is being exploited and twisted. Our community isn’t a bargaining chip or a political game, and these senseless acts of hate and terrorism need to be addressed.
El Paso and Odessa are proof that mass shootings are a consequence of the lack of action by the leaders sworn to protect us. We’re not a political prop — we are communities who are healing.