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Oregon shooting leaves 10 dead and far too many numb

Julie Ryan Evans is an editor and writer who has covered everything from Capitol Hill to the politics of preschool. A mother of two, a runner of races, and a gourmet chef wannabe, she currently lives outside of Orlando, Florida.

Comfortably numb isn't an option when it comes to gun violence

Numb. That's how I wanted to feel yesterday after 10 people were callously shot and killed and seven injured at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. That's how I wanted to feel as I was stuck in traffic for nearly two hours because of another shooting — one that took place in broad daylight near an intersection I drive through every day in the Florida town in which I live. That's how I wanted to feel when my son texted me with fear I could feel, "I heard there was a shooting by my school." Numb would have been preferable, because the rage, sorrow and fear were overwhelming.

Numb. That's how it seems our nation has become when we see innocent lives taken once again by someone with a gun and problem. I feel it when it's barely mentioned as I speak to friends in the wake of these incidents, when it's a brief blip on the news, when I say something about it to a store cashier and she just shakes her head and rolls her eyes. "Here we go again" hangs in the air before the bodies are even identified.

But numbing out is not an option when it comes to this repeated, senseless violence. We simply can't numb out because it's too painful, because it's too prevalent, because it feels too routine. We have to keep feeling all the rage and sorrow and shock and horror that the shooting of innocent lives deserves. We can't just sit back and think, "Here we go again." We. Have. To. Do. Something.

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As a mom, there are so many terrifying things that can take our children’s lives or take our lives and leave our children to grow up without us. Every day we gasp as we see cancer ravage bodies; we pray as we read about accidents that kill in a split second; and we have nightmares about natural disasters that swoop down from the skies and destroy. And in many cases, there's not a damn thing we can do to stop them. They're out of our control and make us feel helpless.

But guns are something we can control, something we should control, and we're not doing a damn thing. How is that possible?

Any guesses as to how many shootings there have been at schools this year so far? Forty-five. Let that sink in for a minute. In nine months in our country, the land of the free, people have walked into our schools with a gun and shot someone. Sometimes lives were lost; sometimes there were only injuries. But 45 times. That's about five times a month in grade schools, middle schools, high schools and colleges.

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How can we let this go on?

People who fight for total gun rights say they want to be able to protect themselves, and I get that. But where were they yesterday when these 10 people were slaughtered? Where were they during the 45 shootings in the last year? Where will they be when the next one happens? Because it will… and more will follow until we do something. Doing something doesn't mean banning all guns, but it does mean doing whatever we can to make sure they don't wind up in the wrong hands. Right now, we're simply not, and it's absolutely inexcusable. How can anyone, regardless of party affiliation or personal beliefs, not see that? I'm not anti-gun, but I am anti-needless-loss-of-innocent-lives, and lives have to come first.

And no, guns aren't the only problem. There's mental illness and a host of other societal problems that lie at the root of the violence that we must address as well. But sensible gun reform is a start — a good start. It won't prevent every killing by any means, but if there was a way to cure some kid's cancer, we wouldn't hesitate a second. So why hesitate now? Why let some stand in the way of doing what's right?

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Numb. I'm tired of trying to feel this when I walk into a movie theatre and my fears of someone walking in and shooting make me want to walk out. I'm tired of attempting to cloak myself in numbness as I go to the mall and get startled at every loud sound. I'm tired of trying to numb my children's fears and saying with unfelt conviction that they don't have to worry about things like this happening at their school.

It's time — long past time — to fight with whatever we have to stop this.

Numb isn't an option anymore.

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