“People die by guns every single day. No matter how they got the gun, no matter how they got shot, they’re still dead at the end of the day.” - Julia Spoor
When Julia Spoor was 8 years old, her father, Scott, used a gun to take his own life. To her, of all the factors in her dad’s death, the gun was the most damning. “With other methods of suicide there’s still a chance, there is more time between the act and death for the possibility of a reversal, but not with a gun,” Spoor said.
By the age of 12, Julia had become involved in advocating for more active gun control laws. Suicide by gun is in many ways different from a mass shooting in a school, or gang violence inside a city’s most depressed areas, but Julia stresses that guns are the one, clear common denominator.
At the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C., all kinds of gun violence and gun-related deaths are being presented as part of the same problem. Crime-related, accidental, suicide, mass shootings, even malfunctions are being talked about by the organizers as legs of the same table. The NRA and pro-gun advocates and lawmakers have worked hard for decades to draw a sharp distinction between the different motivations for gun violence. Such a high-profile event brazenly using the cumulative effect of all gun violence as a platform is a rarity that the NRA and pro-gun lawmakers have been hoping to avoid for decades.
When the CDC began to study the effects of firearms on public health in 1996, NRA lobbyists promoted an amendment to that year’s spending bill authored by Arkansas Rep. Jay Dickey, removing funding from the CDC in the exact amount it had earmarked for gun violence research. Furthermore the amendment put restraints on the agency’s ability to fund anything that could be viewed as promoting “gun control.” This is why, according to Wired, “America still doesn’t have any good data on guns.”
Each sequestered category can be argued with typically heard and often racist rhetoric. When guns and killings in inner cities are discussed, the problem, according to lobbyists, are the “criminals.” Parkland survivor Aalayah Eastmond, who hid underneath the body of a fellow student from the gunman, told The Daily Beast that she doesn’t only want to fight to end school shootings, but also shootings in “urban communities,” and that “they have been fighting against this a lot longer than I as an MSD student have.” Before the shooting, Aalayah said, “I was just a regular black girl, and after this, I’m still just a regular black girl.”
After Marjory Stoneman Douglas, President Trump talked more about mental illness and “school safety” than he did about guns in the days following the massacre. President Trump’s proposed solution was to arm teachers and train them to use guns—furthering the decades-long narrative of the NRA, “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.” It’s one which Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s executive vice president, infamously quoted in 2012 after the Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre. Following this year’s declaration that teachers should be armed, several of them accidentally discharged firearms in schools around the country.
According to Julia, there seems to be a collective understanding that all gun-related deaths need to be discussed and packaged if they want to drive home a message that guns are “public health risk.” Michael Daly of The Daily Beast wrote about Trevon “Tre” Bosley from Chicago, who is speaking at the rally. Trevon survived his brother, who was gunned down in 2006. According to the NRA, the death of Julia’s dad, and Tre’s brother, had nothing to do with gun-control laws but mental health and law enforcement.
Julia believes that all survivors of any gun-related injury or death are stronger together, and presenting it as a single issue may be more effective in changing hearts and minds—but if that doesn’t work Julia’s Plan B is just to wait “them” out.
“It’s frustrating that things move so slow. Just wait another two or three years when we all are registering to vote. We’ll be the ones running for office,” Julia says. “We didn’t elect this problem into office, but we can get it out of office.”