The headline is distressingly familiar: shooting rampage kills multiple innocent civilians; shooter kills self or is shot as the SWAT team closes in. He showed signs of mental illness such as hallucinations and paranoia, a record of weapons, violations and violence. The media swarms to Colorado, Connecticut, D.C. or the like for a few days, then the funerals, the empty sound bites from the politicians on both sides of the issue, and finally the story and the people drop as the media moves on to the next story of the week. 

But the big questions remain unanswered: How did a mentally ill man with previous run-ins with the law gain possession of deadly weapons? Where did the system fail in protecting us from those who abuse the system? How can the public be better protected without exposing us to even greater invasions of our privacy and personal space?

 Let’s be very clear about what we are asking for, because advocates of gun control are a wide-ranging group. Many supporters simply want to see an end to guns of all kinds. Take away the guns, and the violence stops. That is a very lovely concept, but it is unfortunately not very plausible in a country where there is roughly one handgun for every man, woman, and child in the U.S. And that’s only handguns!  

Experts point to a select group of key issues that are within the realm of the possible: a ban on assault weapons, mandated background checks on someone who applies to purchase a gun, and funding more mental health and guidance programs to help those in need of services. With the gun-control regulations currently in place, the probability of preventing another mass shooting on a college campus like Virginia Tech, Santa Monica College, MIT or Oikos University, is not strong enough. As a college student, I am concerned. 

With Congress’ failed attempt to pass meaningful gun reform in the aftermath of the massacre at Sandy Hook, I have come to the conclusion that young people everywhere have to make our voices heard to stop the madness. I propose a national collegiate gun alliance led by students—starting here at Bowdoin. Let’s do this before a concerted effort, propelled by a networking site such as, is made to get the word out to colleges across the country. 

Real change in politics begins on a grassroots level; the Vietnam War ended when young people had enough and made their voices heard. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama’s campaigns caught fire because they first caught the imagination of young voters.  

The first step is finding a passionate, large group of like-minded students to organize. Then, hit the street and venues where young adults hang, and fill their inboxes with petitions stating the alliance’s goals.  Senator Angus King, a good friend to Bowdoin, is strongly in favor of tighter gun control regulations and, as young students, we need to work with him and his office to ensure his support. 

All student members of the alliance would have to do their homework—they must understand both sides of the issue or else the message comes across as a one-sided agenda. The second Amendment, protecting the right of the people to keep and bear arms, is very controversial, but reasonable people can agree to disagree.  Guns save lives? I don’t think so, but my view is probably skewed as I grew up in a busy metropolitan area. However, I do recognize that not everyone lives in the same type of environment as me or has access to police protection on very short notice. I choose to focus my energy not on taking down the whole system, but on attainable reform.

As students at Bowdoin, we feel secure, given the relatively small student body and excellent security system. But, as a previous editorial in the Orient (“A call to disarm,” Jan. 2013) revealed, the Walmart located in Cooks Corner, a 10 minute drive from the College, has a variety of firearms that can be easily purchased, due to Maine’s currently lenient policy on gun possession. 
Following the madness in Newtown, President Mills, as well as 335 other college presidents, signed a gun safety letter calling for both national prohibition of weapons on campuses and a stop to the gun-show loophole. Sadly, Congress did not respond to that message. Senator Diane Feinstein of California, immediately after the D.C. Navy Yard shootings this week, remarked, “Congress must stop shirking its responsibility and resume a thoughtful debate on gun violence in this country. We must do more to stop this endless loss of life.” 

To be sure, this will not come easy. The other side—most notably the National Rifle Association (NRA)—is well-financed, organized, and very skilled at marketing and media affairs. Further, people love to complain about the do-nothing Congress, and it seems that everyone and their mother lives in absolute fear of the NRA. Even President Obama is afraid to take this issue on by the horns.

His heart is in the right place, but he’s a politician. He can’t lead his party over a cliff.  He needs to know that if he leads, we, and millions like us, will follow. He needs to hear from us. With the volume amped up.  There are a thousand and one reasons for why a movement like this won’t catch on and only three good ones why it will: it’s right, it’s necessary, and it’s time.