When I was in sixth grade, my teacher told my class that if an active shooter were in our school, he would sacrifice his life for us. We sat quietly as he lectured us on gun violence. When we left, we were shaken. Afterward, students privately confessed to one another their nightmares of experiencing a school shooting. I still carry this fear with me into every classroom I enter, even in college.
At that age, I didn’t know school shootings were a result of our politicians’ neglect. But people in this country face disturbing odds — some people have survived multiple shootings throughout their lives.
The threat of gun violence terrifies American kids. Over 349,000 students have experienced gun violence at school since the Columbine shooting in 1999. Students feel the weight of the risk every time they go to school. Parents have become scared to send their children to school too.
We can’t waste any more time. Gun regulations, including a ban on assault rifles, have proven to reduce gun violence. The U.S. should have pushed federal regulations years ago, and they need to do so immediately.
Last month, a Nashville shooter killed three students and three adults at a Christian elementary school. At this point, many Americans are numb to the constant news of mass shootings, rendering them less compelled to act. But gun violence at school has an irreversible effect. Survivors of school shootings sustain serious damage to their mental health and education. Families and friends grieve victims who don’t make it out. Firearms are, alarmingly, the leading cause of death for children in the United States.
A school in Dunblane, Scotland experienced a mass shooting in 1996. Families of the victims started a campaign that caused Parliament to pass gun laws the next year. The U.K. has had no school shootings since, and deaths by gun have significantly decreased. Other countries, including Australia, saw a similar pattern.
Guns in American Culture
As a global outlier in gun ownership and deaths, America has earned a reputation.
Some Americans aren’t willing to admit the direct correlation between gun laws and gun deaths because guns have become part of the American psyche. Right-wing politicians posted holiday pictures of their families, including their children, posing with large guns in front of their Christmas trees in 2021 — soon after a mass shooting in Oxford, Mich.
Many U.S. senators who oppose stricter gun laws benefit from the NRA’s money, as the National Rifle Association is a powerful lobby group. The influence the gun industry holds in this country explains why people who stand up for gun regulations get silenced. Following the recent shooting in Tennessee, House Republicans expelled Democratic state representatives who non-violently protested for gun control.
The gun industry, immune from legal accountability, markets firearms toward children and teens in dangerous ways. Most mass shooters buy their guns legally in the United States. Mikah Rector-Brooks, press associate from March for Our Lives, said, “Two policy priorities that we still are fighting for is a ban on assault weapons and an end to marketing from the gun industry towards youth.”
The current system isn’t working. Officers in Uvalde, Texas proved useless when they waited over an hour to confront the shooter of an AR-15, despite being equipped with assault rifles of their own. Clearly, assault rifles don’t make cops feel safer. And we can’t trust police to protect people in shootings, especially considering the number of people that they kill by gun every year.
We need gun control laws. My sixth-grade teacher would have died for us, but many of us could have died along with him.
Insist on Change
I was in high school in 2018 when there was a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, Fla. March for Our Lives organized a national walkout. Most students at my Utah high school participated. But then we went back to class, and nothing changed at our school. Certain schools enforced non-solutions such as mandatory clear backpacks. Other ideas included arming teachers and creating bulletproof desks.
Students at my high school found threats of school shootings written on desks. The rumors caused some to skip class while others attended school despite the risk. We didn’t know how afraid to be. Meanwhile, we practiced active shooter drills in class.
Recent callers falsely reported active shooters to several schools in Utah and other states, traumatizing more students and faculty. We should observe these hoax threats as wake-up calls to push for needed gun regulations. “This phenomenon happens all across the country and really highlights just how serious this gun violence epidemic is,” said Rector-Brooks.
It’s not radical to insist on protecting people from murder. We cannot give up the fight to pass effective gun regulations and ban assault rifles. This will make a much bigger difference than doing nothing or “turning off the television,” as some opt for. We must stay informed for the sake of our children and ourselves.
Politicians hold a lot of the blame for America’s gun violence problem. They need to show some respect for the American citizens they are responsible for and push for gun regulations. As the only country where school shootings regularly happen, we can look at other countries’ laws for change.