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One Student’s Thoughts on Gun Reform

I, alongside many students, used to groan at the announcement of yet another active shooter drill, folding myself under a tiny desk and sitting in silence somehow felt worse than class. This all changed as I got older and school shootings increased. For the entirety of my middle school, high school, and even current college life, I often find myself unable to focus on class. Instead, I analyze everything from how close to the door I am to where I might hide. But hiding makes me feel helpless, I’m dead if I’m found, so I also plan out exactly where I would run. Maybe this gives me a fighting chance, I’m not sure, I still haven’t decided what I would do.

In 2018, after there were 17 school shootings within the first 45 days of the year and no serious talks about gun reform, my school joined the National School Walkout, thousands of us all packed together to protest. It should have been inspiring, but all I could think about was how unsafe I felt standing there, how it would be a perfect opportunity for a shooter. Why do we allow this to be normal?

I shouldn’t fear for my life when attending school. Yet, given the inaction in the U.S., the reality is I do have to feel this way. 2018 capped at 24 school shootings with 113 people killed or injured. In 2019, there were 25 with projections for 2020 showing more, but due to COVID-19, there were only 10. Now in 2021, in the span of just three weeks, there have been three mass shootings with multiple fatalities. Yet, throughout all this death, destruction, and fear, no nationwide legislation to improve our situation has been passed.

Gun reform up until this point has clearly done nothing amidst the ever-growing body count left in the wake of mass shooting after mass shooting. In Boulder, just 10 days after a ban on assault rifles was blocked in court, a man armed with a Ruger AR-556 pistol committed mass murder. After this shooting, an advocacy group involved in terminating the ban stated, “there will be a time for the debate on gun laws…but today is not the time.” When then? When is the time? It seems that for every delay there will be more victims. After the Boulder shooting, President Joe Biden called on Congress to enact legislation, stating this “should not be a partisan issue.” Yet it is.

Almost as bad as the shootings themselves are the responses to any notion of banning or reforming the accessibility of even the biggest, deadliest, most unnecessary guns, which feel just as painful. The outcry is immense, millions of people shouting about their freedoms or the ability to protect themselves being stripped away.

I just don’t understand. How safe do you feel when there are children slain by the same type of gun that you keep in your home? How are you going to feel when it’s your parents who went to the wrong grocery store? What about your children, being little more than sitting ducks at school? Your sibling who ended up dead because of someone who shouldn’t have access to a deadly weapon?

When you’re the one having to plan a funeral will you still stick to your guns? Is your constitutional right to own weapons so important that you will maintain that over the dead body of a loved one? I suspect not. Because, in reality, when someone is buying a weapon capable of such obscene damage, it’s not protection they’re after, it’s having fun playing with big guns or harming as many people as possible.

I know increasing the difficulty to obtain a gun and ridding society of automatic and semi-automatic killing machines won’t completely solve the problem. But hopefully it is a feasible first step in cutting down the number of casualties and even shrinking the number of shootings in the first place. America is not unique for having mentally ill or deranged individuals who would commit these crimes, it is, however, unique in granting these individuals access to deadly weapons. The response to these shootings needs to be actual legislative reform so that maybe someday the next generation of students will be able to focus in class and on their futures instead of wondering if they will get the chance to grow up at all.