By Léo Azambuja

At the end of this month, more precisely March 24, children and families will take the streets in the March For Our Lives in Washington D.C. and in many communities throughout the United States to demand that their lives and safety become a priority and that we end gun violence and mass shootings in schools.

Before going any further, I need to disclose I’m against gun ownership by civilians, with some exceptions, hunting being one of them. I don’t believe the right to bear arms will protect us against a tyrant government. If we the people decide to stand up, with guns, against an oppressive military-backed government, we will be crushed in a matter of days. I believe peaceful resistance is much more effective.

But that’s just my two cents. I understand those who support gun ownership have compelling arguments — and even evidence — to their cause. I respect that. Bottom line, I realized a long time ago that gun ownership is inherent in American culture since before the U.S. was an independent nation, and this will never change. Fair enough, so how do we come together?

I think first and foremost, we need to honor the victims and listen attentively to the survivors of mass shootings. They have the first say. Then we have to stop arguing from different sides of the issue, and start acknowledging our similarities are probably stronger than any differences we may have. One obvious common ground between gun advocates and opponents is that all of them condemn mass shootings. I have no doubt about it. So let’s start from that common ground. Let’s start from the principle that we all want mass shootings to end.

One important step to solve a problem is to understand it. And one way to begin to understand it is to look at some of the statistics.

This year alone, from Jan. 1 to Feb. 22, there were 34 mass shootings in the U.S., with a mass shooting being an incident where at least four people were killed or injured. That’s more than four mass shootings a week. In fact, in the week prior to the school shooting in Florida on Valentine’s Day, when 17 people died, there were four mass shootings in the U.S, with a total of 14 deaths and nine injured. On the four days following the Florida school mass shooting, there were four additional mass shootings in the U.S., leaving two dead and 20 injured, according to the nonprofit organization Gun Violence Archive.

Now let’s forget about mass shootings for a second, and look at just gun violence. Last year, there were 61,514 gun incidents in the U.S., resulting 15,593 deaths and 31,185 injuries. And that’s not even counting the average of 22,000 annual suicides by gun. This year, only in the first eight weeks, there were already 7,643 gun incidents in the U.S., resulting in 2,107 deaths and 3,603 injuries, according to Gun Violence Archive.

Léo Azambuja

A CNN article published last month states Americans own 48 percent of the 650 million civilian-owned guns worldwide. That’s about 310 million civilian-owned guns in the U.S. In other words, it’s 89 guns per 100 residents, which is, by the way, the largest per-capita gun ownership in the world. The U.S. also holds a comfortable lead among high-income countries when it comes to gun-homicide. The rate of gun-homicides here is 25.2 higher than in any other high-income country.

To me, the statistics show, at the very least, we need to change how we get guns in people’s hands. To be clear, although I don’t care for civilian-owned guns, I’m not advocating against it. What I believe 
we should do is unite for a common cause – end gun violence. Whether you are pro or against guns, we should work together to address the issue of gun violence and mass shootings. I hope we can come to a consensus that there has to be better ways to control who gets to own guns. We should drop our defenses and come up with solutions we can all agree, and most importantly, solutions that can save lives.

On March 24, let’s support the March For Our Lives.