Growing up outside of Scranton, my upbringing told two very different stories surrounding gun ownership. The first started with having an extra day off of school after Thanksgiving for the start of hunting season. Students, teachers and their families ventured out into the NEPA forest to continue their long held traditions. I learned that some families owned both hunting rifles and small firearms to use for protection. This felt reasonable. I appreciated the logic behind wanting self protection.
The second was caught in a firestorm of nationalized waves of gun violence. I grew up during the generation of Columbine, Sandy Hook and Charleston. School shooting drills were a regimen. I don’t know a single student living in PA who doesn’t have a connection to this epidemic. This is senseless and heartbreaking. We deserve better.
These two stories feel worlds apart, but the common thread is gun safety. Responsible gun owners live by it: others take it for granted and tear through communities. I can think of few other conversations which can turn heated as quickly. Many are afraid that the first story cannot continue should we enact protections against irresponsibility. Others are afraid of both forms of ownership. Many see a hopeless future. Our state is deeply divided over one of our most shared values: safety.
When we allow gun violence prevention efforts to be torn apart by partisanship we do ourselves a disservice as Pennsylvanians. United through common ground, we can secure our ability to protect one another.
These conversations often come and go. I believe they need permanence. We talk about potholes, education funding, the complexity of fracking and the opioid crisis. We worry about rising costs of living, healthcare and severe weather. These are at the forefront of our minds and at the beginning of our conversations over coffee or pierogies. We want solutions, and we wanted them yesterday.
Gun safety should be included in this list. We want people to feel safe in order for school children to focus on math without calculating the risk of an active shooter, for communities to value serious, responsible gun ownership, for open hunting season to live on without stigma. For our most vulnerable to feel safer walking outside of the house, or staying in. All citizens are a part of this equation. Gen X and Z, Millenials and Baby Boomers, East and West, Philly and Pittsburgh, Erie and Lancaster, Scranton and Reading, gun owners and non owners alike. We owe it to ourselves and each other to build community surrounding our shared goal: increased health and safety measures for all citizens.
I’m a senior and the founder of Keystone Common Ground Collective. The Collective fosters community outreach over shared gun safety goals and values. I work in tandem with GunSenseUs, an organization which “[sees] gun violence not as a political issue, but first and foremost an issue of community health and well-being.”
You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and at msha.ke/keystonecgc. To build community with the Common Ground Collective, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll get this movement moving.
Ellie Sullum is a senior studying philosophy with a minor in peace and conflict studies at West Chester University. ES874307@wcupa.edu