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Alec Chao: an open letter on gun control

in Opinion by

Seventeen people were killed yesterday after a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. The attack marks the 18th school shooting in the U.S. within the first 45 days of 2018, and the third deadliest in this country’s modern history.

In response to the event, current senior and former newspaper staff member Alec Chao tweeted out an open letter to Florida Senator Marco Rubio, House Speaker Paul Ryan and U.S. President Donald Trump. Since then, the letter has garnered more than 70 retweets and 120 favorites.

It appears below.


Senator Rubio, Congressman Ryan, President Trump:

It is the evening of Wednesday, 14 February, 2018. On any given Wednesday, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School would be concerned with their schoolwork or their extra­curricular activities; instead, many return to their homes on this evening unjustly concerned with their own mortality. Some, who left this morning in expectation of a routine Wednesday at school, will never step foot in their homes again, having met an untimely end in an institution where there is not an expectation—nay, a guarantee of safety. It is a travesty that this reality has come to define ‘normal’ in the United States.

I live fifteen miles from Stoneman Douglas as the crow flies. Barring none, this is the closest I have ever been to a location where an event such as this has taken place. It is difficult for me to deny that years of innumerable accounts of shootings from Maine to Washington state has left me desensitized to the prevalence of gun violence in this country. I can recall the night of the Virginia Tech shooting quite clearly: in a sandwich shop, I sat watching the news unfold on live television, with the thought that such an event could only happen in a vacuum. It could never happen here. I was seven years old.

The day the Newtown shooting occurred is equally vivid to me. I was in my school’s auditorium for an assembly to celebrate having made honor roll. Administration had hired a DJ. I happened to check my phone, which relayed news that there had been a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. I admittedly did not think that much of the alert at that time. After school, I became wholly aware of the scope of the tragedy and sat for several hours considering the nature of human existence. It could never happen here. I was twelve years old.

Today, it has happened here. I am eighteen years old.

I feel as if I am obligated to state the quantity of money you have all received from the National Rifle Association. Senator Rubio, you have received from the National Rifle Association, which totals approximately $3.3 million dollars according to the Washington Post. According to Politico, Congressman Ryan, you received an approximate $172,000. President Trump, direct contributions are unclear, but according to the Center for Responsive Politics, the National Rifle Association spent $11.4 million on campaign advertisements in support of your bid for Presidency.

These are the facts. To challenge them would be dishonest. To deride them as false, as you would say “fake news,” would be to insult my intelligence and the intelligence of my peers.

Your collective past actions demonstrate a lack of regard for the impact gun violence has had on the American public, especially the youth. The Brady Center for Gun Violence estimates that, on average, 17,012 children are shot every year. 2,647 died as a result of gun violence; 1,565 are murdered. Senator Rubio, you have previously stated your support for Second Amendment rights, noting that you possess a concealed weapons permit but do not carry a weapon because a bulk of your time is spent in high security areas such as airports. You have also stated that there “are laws that protect those two things [guns and violence] but many of these [additional] gun laws are ineffective.” This is quoted from an interview with CNN dated 14 April 2013.

Congressman Ryan, you have previously voted ‘yes’ on legislation (HR 2122) to lower the length of the waiting period required to obtain a firearm from three days to one day, as introduced by Representative Bill McCollum of Florida. More recently, you have stated your intent to allow a bill regarding the reduction of the availability of muzzle silencers to remain unscheduled, noting your intent to focus on the government budget. President Trump, you have failed to acknowledge the impact of gun violence wholesale in your communications with the American public. These actions are disappointing.

I must admit that, in writing this letter, I feel as if I have failed myself. I write you with the expectation that I will not receive a proper, sincere response from any of you. I am wholly prepared to open my mailbox sometime in the near future and find neat, vague, placative form letters stating your intent to engage yourselves with great fervor in legislative matters regarding gun control. Your letters will say that your thoughts and prayers are with my community in the wake of this tragedy that has not only struck Broward County, but indeed the hearts of Americans near and far. These letters will not be satisfying in the least.

The Constitution does indeed stipulate the right for American citizens to bear arms in the text of the Second Amendment, a fact of which I am wholly aware. As much as I abhor gun violence and have made a personal vow to neither handle nor own a firearm, I do not believe I am at liberty to deny anyone the ability to own a firearm if they so wish. Such a right is one that our Founding Fathers granted to all Americans, and it is a right I must respect even if I disagree.

However, I do not believe it is fair that blood must spill in the interest of Constitutionality. Men, women, and children should not lie in hospitals or in caskets so that another man or woman may handle a firearm relatively free from restraint.

The need for new firearm legislation is something of which you are all aware. There is little sense in reminding you of the criticality of this discussion or that America is watching. You will hear that parents of children killed by gunfire beg for change and consider this for perhaps but a moment before maintaining the status quo. Your staffers will receive this letter—and many like it—and perhaps skim before composing another form letter, addressing it, and sending it off; fire and forget. Talking heads will argue, Congress will hem and haw, and as suddenly as this tragedy occurred, it will pass. We will return to the status quo. America is Sisyphus, forever rolling its hopes of peace on its streets, in its schools, in its homes up an interminable hill until the next misfortune sends the boulder tumbling downward once more.

Gentlemen, I think tonight may be the first time I will cry in the wake of a shooting such as this. I am not ashamed to admit this. I have reached my breaking point. But my tears are unimportant.

Those of the students at Stoneman Douglas, their parents, the officers and first responders, the faculty and administrators—their tears prove most significant. Tonight, they fall onto ground stained with blood.

I remind you of my expectations. I beg you to disappoint me.



Alec Chao

State of Florida

23rd Congressional District


  1. Is there some way that we can make it clear to the politicians that we want them to drop every subject they are talking about until they have come up with a policy that protects all children. That must be priority ONE.

  2. My husband is a registered gun owner and I am in favor of additional gun control, particularly with automatic and semi automatic weapons. I am not in favor of taking guns away from law-abiding civilians who have proven to be responsible gun owners. It is so obvious your heartfelt request for additional legislation on this issue, but you did not go far enough in your letter. With the past shootings in schools turning out to be by kids with known mental issues and/or illness I think this is equally important, if not the bigger picture here. It is extremely obvious that our mental health care and security institutions have to do a much better job !! It is clear to everyone that This shooting in particular should have never happened, and most likely could have been prevented with proper follow-through on this young man !

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