By Chloe Aiello
Mass shootings have claimed 23 lives in the U.S. within the past two weeks alone ー most recently in Thousand Oaks, Calif., where a gunman killed 12 at a country-themed bar Wednesday night. But exit polls from the midterms revealed voters still don't think gun legislation is a problem in the U.S.
Parkland shooting survivor and March for Our Lives co-founder Delaney Tarr worries people will keep dying at the hands of gun violence until "everyone has a story."
"It's that mentality of, 'It's not important to vote on because it hasn't happened to us yet.' But, increasingly, every community in this country is affected by gun violence," she told Cheddar Big News on Thursday. "If we don't start voting on it now like it is one of the most important issues ー because it is ー then people are just going to keep dying."
Her comments follow a mass shooting on Thursday morning that left 12 dead and many more injured. A Marine Corps veteran with a history of suspected mental health issues opened fire in a country bar ー a popular spot among local university students. Police believe the suspect, 28-year-old Ian David Long, later turned the gun on himself. The Thousand Oaks shooting comes less than two weeks after a gunman killed 11 in a Pittsburgh synagogue.
Tarr said gun violence has become so common that people are numb to it.
"When we are seeing these numbers and seeing these statistics, we forget the humanity of the issue. We become numb to it," she said. "We need to focus on the humanity, the lives that were lost. Because that is the way we can is how we can restore empathy to our country. Because really, this is an issue of empathy, it is an issue of life and death."
Tarr said she was encouraged to see gun control advance in the 2018 midterm elections.
In the House, swept by Democrats, candidates with strong views on gun control took seats both in blue-leaning swing states, like Virginia, Nevada, Wisconsin and Colorado, as well as in more conservative ones, like South Carolina and Kansas, according to The Trace. Spending by gun rights lobbying group the National Rifle Association, was also way down.
The Senate was a bit of a different story, but Tarr remains optimistic about the results ー especially when it came to young voter turnout.
"What we really focused on was the fact that the youth turnout was record-breaking this year," Tarr said. "When we are seeing this young voter turnout, we are also seeing things like more than 27 NRA-backed politicians being voted out of office. That is incredible progress in itself."
"I just want to say thanks to the young people, really, because those are the people I want to give credit to, all the young people in this country who've been fighting for positive change," she added.