Content warning: frank discussion of the UNC Charlotte shooting and gun violence

In the early hours of Aug. 31, CMPD reported a shooting at 49 North apartment complex. Four people, including two UNC Charlotte students, were shot. One was killed. 

On the evening of May 28, a group of individuals opened fire on a pool party held at the Flats at Mallard Creek. One was shot. 

On the evening of May 1, mere hours after a memorial for the April 30 shooting, two young men began an argument at a pool party in University Village apartments. One stormed off and returned with a gun. He shot three people, one of whom died in the hospital.

The April 30 shooting marked UNC Charlotte. At the 49er New Year concert, students uneasily bopped to Ari Lennox, eyes occasionally flickering towards potential exit points. Raucous conversation dies around Kennedy, where pink and purple flower beds flank the former site of the impromptu memorial. On the first day of French class, my professor switched to English and told us to start locking the classroom door behind us. The attack is over, but its impact is present in everything we do. We are still scared.

In the aftermath of the shooting, I stepped out of my role as Assistant Opinion Editor to report on the attack. I spent hours poring over r/UNCCharlotte, the UNCC Twitter tag, and various Snapchat accounts. I saw a developing trend: students were understandably frightened by the April 30 attack, but for some, the shooting compelled them to begin arming themselves. Students discussed the merits of concealing weapons, expressed the desire to practice at a shooting range and even lamented how the victims could have stopped the domestic terrorist — if only they were armed. On May 3, a Reddit user asked if other students felt “PTSD-like symptoms” about guns. Another user responded by saying, “Not really. My first thought during all of this was, ‘I wish I had a gun to protect myself.’”

That post was particularly striking. Why? Because I had that same thought. When I was covering the attack, the only weapon I carried was a knife. I remember sneaking along building perimeters to get to Belk Plaza, trying to remember my school shooter training from first grade: run in zig zags, hide when you can, attack when you must. And I wished we were safer. I wished I had something besides my knife, my teeth and my fists to save my skin. 

But when the police helicopters departed and the campus emptied for the summer, I realized how hollow that urge was. On May 28, sitting on my porch, texting all the people I knew at the Flats, begging to know if they were okay, I realized: as long as we keep guns around, we will never know safety. 

It is an undeniable fact that the sole, express purpose of guns is to maim and kill with the greatest of ease. I know that those who plan to carry don’t want to commit another atrocity. For most, their sole, express purpose is to protect themselves and other students. Humans often err in that purpose. We get drunk, we start fights, we get pissed, we forget where we put the keys to our gun safes, we accidentally leave the safety off. Even the most experienced, highly trained individuals sometimes fail to fulfill their purpose of being safe. But guns — in that sole, express purpose to rip bodies apart — rarely fail. And unlike dropping a knife or puncturing a can of Mace, their impact is deep, wide and permanent. 

While the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the rate of accidental shooting deaths from 1999 to 2015 fell by 48 percent, those gains have been eclipsed by the overall rise in suicides and homicides. Access, even along with these good intentions, matters. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute reports that those with “firearm access” experience twice the risk of homicide and more than three times the risk of suicide in comparison to those without. It’s common sense: more guns mean more opportunities to make an error in safety or in judgement. And if that were to happen, it might cost you the lives of your peers. As long as you carry a gun, you will be the reason we note the exits and lock the doors. This trend will end in a mistake. And we will have to mourn all over again.

Does forgoing weapons mean going through this world feeling defenseless against a potential mass shooting? Yes. And it’s a miserable, terrifying experience. But to fully realize a world where gun violence is no longer an hourly occurrence, we need to defend each other in a different way. Nothing stands between us and machines designed to kill. So we need to fight like hell to get them off our streets, out of our neighborhoods and away from our campus. 

Your sense of safety shouldn’t compromise ours. Give us a reason to stop being afraid. 

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Nikolai (he/they) is a junior pursuing majors in Political Science and International Studies and minors in Legal Studies and Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Studies. He is from Chatham County, North Carolina. He has also contributed to INDY Week and qnotes. When he isn't publishing hot takes, he enjoys reading, practicing the banjo, and managing the office meme board.

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