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What do three millennials have to say about growing up with tragedy?

Jamila McNichols, sister of slain mass shooting victim Thomas "TJ" McNichols, mourns beside a memorial near the scene of the mass shooting Monday, Aug. 5, 2019, in Dayton, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) John Minchillo, Associated Press

The hearts of the nation broke over the weekend when news came of two more mass shootings in America, this time in less than 24 hours. The events in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, have affected everyone and once again turned the conversation toward causes, solutions and making the country safe again.

Much of the conversation is centered around politicians' comments and actions. For millennials, the conversation can be more personal. Now between the ages of 23-38, they are active in the workforce, starting or raising families — and they can vote. They were also the "Columbine generation" — the first to grow up when active shootings became relatively regular news items.

As three millennials with different backgrounds and in different stages of life, here are our thoughts on the questions and conversations the shootings have sparked among our peers.

What conversations are millennials having about mass shootings? Are they different or the same as those coming from Washington?

Savannah Hopkinson: Growing up with the known fear of a possible mass shooting, and seeing the escalation of such tragedies, I've noticed the conversation evolve. The conversations with my peers about mass shootings are focusing on solutions that can be implemented immediately, not necessarily from the top down. We realize the problems that lead to these shootings aren't always black and white, and legislation alone will not change things. We have to change the way we act, interact and think to do our part, asking, "How can I personally help make a difference?"

Stephen Garcia: Mass shootings now happen so often that one question often comes up: "Where was it this time?" It no longer surprises us anymore. We as a nation have become so desensitized to mass shootings, and even both President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden named the wrong places when talking about the mass shootings this past weekend.

Some politicians in Washington are trying to blame violence in video games for the rising number of mass shootings by saying it desensitizes us. It's a classic argument but an extremely ignorant one. Time and time again academic studies have shown there is no causal link between video games and real life violence. Countries like Japan and South Korea play violent video games at similar rates we do, but they do not deal with consistent mass shootings. By trying to make this about video games, people in power are avoiding real issues and will continue to fall short in trying to prevent the next mass shooting.

Christian Sagers: What I see online generally takes the tone of "We've had enough. Gun control now!" What I hear among friends in person, oddly enough, is nothing. I don't know if that indicates an unwillingness to discuss what often becomes a political issue, or if it signals the issue doesn't yet merit dominance in casual dinner conversation. I hope it's the former, and I hope we can start talking about the topic in honest, yet civil, ways. My wife and I can find ourselves talking politics and solutions late into the night. The more those conversations can happen among friends and within communities, the better chance the country has of unifying around a shared goal of safety.

Many millennials are raising or starting families of their own. What kind of effect does an active shooter world have on parenting decisions?

Hopkinson: While I do not yet have children, my fellow female friends and I talk often about the fears we have with bringing and raising children in this world. Women still end up being responsible for the majority of parenting and child-rearing. We feel a great deal of pressure to be parents that do things differently; to make parenting decisions that can change things by raising good, kind, responsible and empathetic people.

I was struck by the stories of the survivors of Columbine, many of whom now have children themselves, and how their trauma and experiences have affected their adult, family lives. More shootings means more of these stories, and a world that is more hurt, scarred and haunted by demons. This is not a world we want for our children.

Garcia: My wife and I are expecting our first child, and as a future Latino father, I'm absolutely terrified. The terrorist attack in El Paso is one many Latinos dreaded but knew deep down would eventually happen because of rising hate and racism in the country since 2015. We have always been targets and scapegoats, but this past weekend brought it to a new level closer to home. I'm a target because of my heritage and skin color, something out of my control, and so is my forthcoming mixed-race child. As crazy as it sounds, I can't help but feel somewhat responsible for that. I want to protect my child but also prepare her for the reality she will encounter growing up if nothing changes.

Sagers: I have an 8-week-old baby, and I feel a curious sensation coming home after a taxing day in the newsroom to see him so happy to be looking at the light coming through the window. His life is so peaceful. He's oblivious to the dangers and horrors of the world outside his home. It should make me worry, but it actually gives me hope. His blissful coos remind me that no matter the tragedy, I can find joy in my home with those I love. He's a living testament that life has a way of rebuilding itself, improving and always moving forward.

What kind of change do millennials want to see? How can they have an affect on making that change happen?

Hopkinson: Living in fear is exhausting, and it feels like this generation is exhausted. Millennials have more power to bring about change than the younger Generation Z. They're raising the next generation. They can vote for leaders who make things happen. They work in industries and in positions that can instigate change. They can be examples of tolerance, acceptance and making the world a safer place once again. We need to act, not just react.

Garcia: We want change. We need something more than "thoughts and prayers." We are well aware that we will never be able to completely stop mass shootings in this country, but we need to try. We continuously try to improve conditions on the roads for drivers and pedestrians through laws and requirements for both the driver and the car. Have we ended deaths by car accidents? No, but things have gotten better. We can and need to do the same with guns.

However, the only way to make things better is by voting. Nothing else will change the way things are. Some of our leaders fear doing anything, besides talking, to prevent mass shootings for one reason or another. If they won't do anything, it's time to vote them out and put someone who will do something in.

Sagers: I'm perpetually frustrated by a Congress that cowers rather than leads, and I think most of us would rather see bipartisan leadership than finger-pointing and inaction, regardless of the political cost. Since I don't see that changing in the near future, I say millennials should do what they do best: solve their own problems. The "startup culture" revolves around grassroots, community solutions that follow the mantra of "do first, ask permission later." The arc of America is really a story of communities acting and politics following.