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The fourth mass shooting in Colorado since the Columbine massacre 20 years ago brings back to the public discussion a complex problem that requires comprehensive solutions in the United States and Puerto Rico.

According to early reports, this time, an 18-year-old boy burst into a classroom with a gun hidden in a guitar case and shot his classmates. He killed one and injured eight others. In recent days, two other young men were shot dead at the University of North Carolina. Such insanity demands urgent changes.

Amid the mourning, heroic acts appear as lights that contrast with the lack of determined action from the political class. As in the incidents in North Carolina, when 21-year-old Riley Howell prevented, paying with his life, an armed young man from killing more students, in Tuesday's shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch, south of Denver, another act of courage and sacrifice saved lives. This time, Kendrick Castillo, an 18-years-old who wanted to study engineering in college, lunged at the gunman who shot him dead just three days from graduation.  

These deaths, like those of so many innocents killed in places such as schools or churches that should be sanctuaries free of violence, demand urgent actions on tight gun-control measures. They also demand an end to the division between sectors that, because of their color, origin, gender or religion, among others, encourage rejection and hatred towards those that they consider different.

April 20 marked the twentieth anniversary of the Columbine massacre, when two teens -18 and 17 years old- burst through the doors of Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado with semi-automatic rifles, guns, and explosives. They killed 15 people, injured 20 others and left the nation stunned by one of the worst school killings in history.

If anything has changed since then, it is the frequent repetition of these deplorable incidents.

Colorado went back to horror in July 2012, when a young gunman killed 12 people and left 70 wounded in a movie theater in Aurora. In December 2013, another 18-year-old armed student killed a 17-year-old teenager and then killed himself at Arapahoe High School in Centennial.

So far in 2019, there have been 18,255 gun-related incidents in the United States, including 115 mass shootings, defined by the Gun Violence Archive as those where at least four people are killed or injured. These incidents have cost 4,804 lives and injured 9,011 people among those. 1,084 children under the age of 17 have been injured or killed.

Such figures reflect a corrosive evil that remains unaddressed. And it is urgent to address it from its multiple dimensions.

Currently, the U.S. Senate is considering a bill passed more than two months ago by the House of Representatives to expand the requirements for background checks on gun buyers to include purchases at trade shows and online.

Since Puerto Rico shares contexts with the US, we must remain vigilant to any local attempt to facilitate access to weapons through legal channels. The island already has too much and with the fact that every year violence takes hundreds of lives, most of the time due to circumstances linked to the lucrative clandestine weapons market and drug trafficking.

Both here and there, it is also necessary to address people´s mental health problems and to urgently work on a culture of inclusion and respect leading to peace, from an early age.

No child should feel insecure or isolated at school, as no worshipper should fear to go to a religious center. Nor can citizens give up their right to live in peace before fear, contempt, or the complicit indifference of the political class.


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