THE BLOG
04/16/2013 04:20 pm ET | Updated Jun 16, 2013

Young Coloradans Remember the Victims of VA Tech

If the last few elections have taught us anything, it's that a new generation of young citizens are making their voices heard in our democracy. These active young people are not only voting at historically high rates, but they're increasingly engaged on the part of our democracy that comes after Election Day -- creating the policies to solve big issues. Young people are claiming a seat at the table on the biggest of issues, whether it's climate change, equality, education funding, or another issue that has been an unfortunate fact of life for young people these days: gun violence.

Tuesday, April 16 marks the 6th anniversary of the deadly shooting on Virginia Tech's campus. On this day in 2007, an emotionally and mentally disturbed senior at Virginia Tech killed 32 people and wounded 17 others before he turned the gun on himself and committed suicide. The horrific body count of this massacre makes it the deadliest shooting incident by a single gunman in U.S. history.

Awful anniversaries like this remind us that young people have been disproportionately affected by gun violence. Campuses and schools across the country have been the site of mass shootings throughout my generation's adolescence. We will commemorate the 14th anniversary of the Columbine shooting in a few days on April 20, and memory of that massacre is still fresh in the minds of young Coloradans.

As horrific as mass shootings are, they don't tell the whole story about youth gun violence. More than 20,000 young people are injured annually by firearms in the U.S., and over 2,600 are killed by guns each year. That means that about eight young Americans are killed every day by guns. And a disproportionate amount of them are young people of color.

The awful truth is that a significant number of those gun deaths are suicides. Since many suicide attempts occur during acute, yet brief moments of crisis, many studies and common sense demonstrate that most youth suicides could be prevented if the victims did not have easy access to firearms. In addition to common sense laws like background checks, we need to invest in the mental health resources that are available to young people. A focus on emotional wellness is essential to reducing gun deaths and must be a part of this public discourse.

Because of all these reasons, our generation has grown up seeing images of gun violence in our communities and on the news. Year after year, we learn about more people our age who have fallen victim to the gun violence epidemic in our country. Our generation knows gun violence all too well, but this does not mean we will accept massive and daily gun violence as the norm.

Today, we remember the young victims of the Virginia Tech shooting by committing ourselves to reduce gun violence. Too many mass shootings and daily acts of gun violence have ended young lives for us not to speak out. We will not forget the significant votes that our Colorado legislators took to close the background check loophole and the ban on high-capacity magazines. We will be watching when our U.S. Senators and Members of Congress vote on a bill to require background checks on private gun sales. And of course, we will vote in 2014.