Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Colorado State University. Reynolds High School. These are just a few of the 200 school shootings that have taken place since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, according to The New York Times.
For too long I have watched shooters rob the lives of my fellow Americans before they’ve really begun. When 21 first graders were shot in their classroom in Newtown, Connecticut, I feared for the life of my own six-year-old niece. When 12 people were gunned down at a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado, all I could see were illusions of unsuspecting victims in the seats of the next Cinemark I walked into. When 17 high schoolers were murdered in Parkland, Florida, I realized that it could have just as easily been my own friends who lost their lives that day.
There is a constant fear that stalks the halls of American schools: that any of us could be the next victim of a mass shooting. Many students have been silenced by this fear as we’ve watched our American brothers and sisters be snatched from this world in shooting after shooting, while those who have had the courage to speak up have not been heard by the adults of their communities. Yet, the Parkland shooting was the last straw for many of the ignored in this nation. The walkouts taking place around the country and right here at Deerfield give voice to students who demand to be heard. The movement is a promise to lawmakers that we will no longer tolerate the hunting of our generation. Here are some reasons why you should join us.
Currently in the United States, guns are readily accessible to the majority of the American adult population. According to a New York Times article, it takes “less than an hour” to purchase a gun. “Roughly a third of American gun owners buy guns without a background check,” the article continues, something federal law does not always require, while buyers with histories of “criminal convictions, domestic violence, [and]… mental [instability] are rarely prohibited from purchasing arms.
This makes it easy for ex-convicts, mental health patients, and perpetrators of domestic abuse to buy semi-automatic weapons, including AR-15s: the type of firearm used in the majority of mass shootings, according to Time Magazine. In fact, there is no legislation restricting customers on the terrorist watch list from purchasing firearms (as PBS news reports), meaning that citizens deemed too dangerous to fly on planes can still purchase a gun just as easily as someone intending to use it for target practice.
In addition, 78 percent of past school shooters have struggled with suicide-related mental health issues (as the American Counseling Association confirms), yet there is no requirement that customers provide mental health records when obtaining firearms. According to New England Public Radio, the National Rifle Association has spent $7.3 million in the last decade on funding for hundreds of school programs such as shooting clubs and junior military programs, including one which Nikolas Cruz, the very person responsible for the murder of 17 students in Parkland, was a member of.
Thus, it is clear why gun-related tragedy continues to harm Americans of all identities: guns are too accessible. And I, along with other Deerfield students, am walking out to change this.
I am joining the walkers because I’m tired of being afraid. I am fed up with the nagging worry that a gunman will one day walk into my own school and end the futures of so many bright students with a semi-automatic weapon they purchased at the local gun shop. I will not rest until the aforementioned facts and statistics only exist in history books because they are a phenomenon of the past and my own children’s school days are unshadowed by the fear of gun violence. This will only be possible when we as a nation take tangible measures to prevent gun-related deaths.
Thoughts and prayers are a start, but they did not stop Nikolaz Cruz from legally purchasing and using an AR-15 on his fellow classmates, thus repeating the same tragedy we had prayed so many times before would never happen again. And, they will not stop the next shooting either. In fact, the staging of a walkout is only the first of many efforts we must take to end gun violence. Next, we must require stricter background checks, ban assault rifles, raise the minimum age required to buy arms, and implement mandatory gun-safety trainings for prospective purchasers, to name a few actions.
I’m not asking that all firearms be banned from the public. What I and students all over the country are demanding is that guns be kept out of the hands of those who have and will use them to cause irreparable trauma and devastating damage. Citizens demonstrate that they are worthy of the right to bear arms by not causing harm, just as they prove their right to vote by registering and abiding by the law.
Some say that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. While it is true that it is a human being who ultimately pulls the trigger, guns give people the power to kill. Without them, murderous thoughts cannot be turned into deadly action, and classrooms full of first-graders are left untouched. The future safety of the American people depends on the implementation of at least basic gun control. Ensuring that no daughter, no brother, no father ever falls victim to gun violence again is the least we can do to honor the families who lost their children in Sandy Hook, the teachers whose pupils never returned to class, and the memory of those who died in Las Vegas.
Because now, we, the young leaders of America, refuse to fall victim to another mass shooting. As social media have promised, “never again” will we fall prey to gun violence. “Never again” will we cry over dreams that were buried along with the dead. “Never again” will we be conquered by our own helplessness.
Because now we have two powerful weapons: hope and action.We will use these tools to walk out of school and lobby officials to stand up for gun control until they stand up for it themselves. We will prove that our voices cannot be lost. We, the students of America, know that there is no room for gun violence in our future.
For, our future is not built by the afraid and powerless, but by the empowered and unbeatable peacemakers of the next generation.