Ghost guns have no place in America

The proliferation of ghost guns is the fastest-growing gun safety problem our nation has seen in years. These weapons allow anyone, anywhere to easily obtain an untraceable firearm with no background check, no serial number, and no questions asked — all you need is a credit card number.

Too often ghost guns are talked about with numbers and figures, but this threat is more than the scary research we see. Ghost guns are stealing lives, devastating communities and changing families every single day.

I know, because that’s my story.

A little over two years ago, I was a freshman at Saugus High School in Santa Clara, Calif., hanging out in the Saugus Quad before class with my best friend, Dominic. Before I knew it the shootinghad started.

I convinced myself it was a drill. After a few seconds, I started to feel intense pressure on my stomach. I told myself, “Don’t look at it.” I touched the area, and it felt wet. This was no drill. It was the day my whole life changed.

A 16-year-old student at the school had brought a homemade .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol. He started shooting. I was hit in my lower abdomen, and two other students were shot and wounded. Dominic and a fun, loving, kind, 15-year-old girl, Gracie, were killed. The entire shooting lasted less than 20 seconds.

Less than 20 seconds to steal my 14 year-old best friend and the best person I had ever met.

Since their rise, ghost guns have become the weapon of choice for white supremacists, violent criminals, gun traffickers, dangerous extremists and, generally, people legally prohibited from buying firearms — which was the case in my own shooting. Across the country, we have seen an uptick in these untraceable firearms at crime scenes in major cities such as Chicago, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

From Jan. 1, 2016, through Dec. 31, 2020, there were approximately 23,906 suspected ghost guns reported to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) that were recovered by law enforcement from potential crime scenes, including 325 homicides or attempted homicides. host gun sellers like Polymer80, located in Nevada, continue to sell these easy-made kits that only require a few simple tools and some spare time to make a deadly weapon.

Now those companies are trying to challenge the ghost gun law passed last legislative session in Nevada, a bill that will save lives and must be implemented to keep communities safe. This law is a necessity — ghost guns are no longer a distant fear, they are ruining people’s lives. We can stop this before more childhoods, and lives, are cut short.

After my shooting, I joined Students Demand Action because I couldn’t sit by and watch gun violence continue to affect families and communities the way it affected mine. Through Students Demand Action, I have found my voice to fight against ghost guns and honor Dominic.

I don’t remember the aftermath of the shooting, but I’m told that as my classmates and a teacher worked to save my life, I asked them repeatedly to make sure the emergency responders were helping Dominic. He was my No. 1 priority. I never thought he would be gone.

Now two years later, I’m only a junior in high school. I should be thinking about SATs and taking the drivers test, but instead I am fighting to prevent gun violence, especially violence with ghost guns. I don’t have the power to change all the laws in our country or even vote in our next leaders, but by sharing my story, I hope to remind people that the issue of ghost guns is more than statistics and numbers — it’s about saving lives. 

We have made such important progress on the fight against ghost guns. Two years ago, no one knew what these weapons were. Now I see this issue being brought up on the biggest stages. I’m grateful that not only has my home state of California done something, but Nevada followed closely behind to address ghost guns.

Stopping the proliferation of ghost guns will save lives, yet the gun lobby is suing against this life-saving legislation. We must fight back, so no other families and communities go through the tragedy that mine has.

Every day, I wake up and fight. I fight for myself, for Gracie, and, most importantly, for my best friend Dominic — and I won’t stop fighting.

Mia Tretta continues to attend Saugus High School.