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It’s hard to find the words to write this week.

As I think of my family as a 7-year-old and try to imagine them living through what 21 families in Texas are going through right now, my heart aches with pain and my blood boils with anger. 

The photo above is of me and my family. As the first born of a female police officer and the favorite grandson of a lifelong soldier, I grew up around guns. I was not nearly as afraid of them then as I have been since I moved to the United States.

When I was a little boy, my grandfather was the most impressive man around. As a retired sergeant from the Turkish armed forces, he was the ultimate definition of honor, respect, duty, strength, courage, confidence, class, and many other things I aspired to be. He was a decorated Korean War veteran alongside allied forces. We are few short days away from Memorial Day, and I want to take a moment to pay my respects to those who make the ultimate sacrifice to defend this nation. I have so much respect and gratitude for those who take on the job of standing guard for our nation, as well as the families who support them.

I never saw my grandpa’s pistol, despite all the time we spent together. My mom’s, on the other hand, was often visible. Regardless, both her and my grandpa taught me that deadly weapons are to be respected by everyone and operated only by trained professionals under extreme conditions. I never felt interested in a gun as I was never interested in joining law enforcement or the military. Civilians in our community did not own guns, and I have no recollection of anyone seeking ways to protect themselves or their property by acquiring weapons. I know that ending gun violence in American is not as simple as revoking civilian access, but surely there are things we can do. Mandatory training for anyone who owns a firearm? Higher age requirements for gun ownership? Stiff penalties for illegal gun ownership? Federal legislation to strengthen gun laws across all states, and a task force with additional resources for ATF to enforce them? 

In a world where stigma around mental illness persists and many go untreated, and in a nation where healthcare and education are considered a luxury; the accessibility and convenience of gun ownership makes things worse. As the MLK famously said: “Our lives being to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” It’s enough, it’s time. Something needs to change.

For a tomorrow where we look back to this day and recognize the seeds of change planted in a nation united against gun violence,

– Burak Sarac, Team Lead

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