Navy Yard. Newtown. Aurora. Tucson. Fort Hood.
In the past seven years, more than 200 mass shootings have occurred around the United States, according to a database compiled by USA Today. Many of these massacres have been engraved in the minds of millennials everywhere.
In the age of media consumption and countless social networking platforms, it’s hard for millennials to miss hearing about these tragic events. “I think this is a problem of our generation, and we’re very much affected,” says Dina Al-Shorafa, a recent University of Minnesota Law School graduate.
Al-Shorafa was a part of a group of students from the University of Minnesota that submitted a report to the United Nations last spring in an effort to draw attention to the escalating firearm issues in the United States. Led by faculty members Barbara Frey and Jennifer Green, the group successfully had its report published in a review of human rights in the United States, put together by the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC).
Throughout United States history, guns have been embedded in American values, pop culture, and the Constitution. Yet a majority of gun owners tend to be older, white males from southern states. Aggregate data from polls conducted by Gallup from 2007 to 2012 show that 61 percent of southern white men and 52 percent of men 50 and older reported having had a gun in their household, compared to 20 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds.
Al-Shorafa says there are many problems regarding guns throughout the country, but a lot of the problems stem from shoddy gun laws and powerful special interest groups.
“Gun violence in the U.S. is unprecedented. We are the headquarters of gun violence in the world, and we have a very, very powerful gun lobby that makes sure that we don’t pass effective legislation to curb gun violence,” Al-Shorafa says. “They want as many guns out there as possible because otherwise it would cut into their business.”
Although polling reveals guns are less popular within the millennial generation compared to older generations, young people still own guns, Al-Shorafa says.
Andy Schwich, a second-year University of Minnesota law student and contributor to the report, says the UNHRC will draw on this report as well as others to make suggestions to the United States on how to curb gun violence in the spring of 2014.
Universal background checks, elimination of background check loopholes at gun shows and online, and an assault weapons and ammunition ban are among the recommendations in the report issued by the University of Minnesota group.
If millennials really care about this issue and want to change the laws, they need to take a stand and vote, Al-Shorafa says. “I think inaction is one of the biggest issues for people our age—we don’t like to take advantage of the fact that politicians would kill for our vote. We don’t show up at polls, we don’t vote, and we could be major swings. We could change elections if we all showed up and voted what we thought.”