Four and a half years ago, I marched with my mother and uncles in the Washington DC March for our Lives, a widespread demonstration supporting more gun control legislation. About a month prior, Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School was attacked by a former student, who killed 17 students and teachers and injured 17 others. Five years earlier, days before winter break and mere weeks from my seventh birthday, my mother held back tears and her fear as she explained that twenty kids my age and six of their teachers were killed in Sandy Hook. And over twenty years ago, my mother and father graduated from Paint Branch during the same year that two students opened fire at Columbine and killed 12 students and a teacher.
As a first grader, I didn’t understand how somebody could be cruel enough to inflict such pain and trauma on entire communities. Ten years later, I’m almost seventeen and still don’t understand. We think tragedies like this could never happen to the people we know or us. We see sad stories in the news and give our thoughts and prayers, grateful that we haven’t been so unfortunate yet. But last school year, this happened just fifteen minutes away from Blake.
On January 21, a student shot one of his peers in a bathroom at Magruder High School. The weapon used was a ghost gun, a privately manufactured firearm that is unregistered and untraceable. The student had to undergo surgery and was on life support for several weeks, but thankfully has now physically recovered. On November 7th, the shooter pled guilty to attempted first-degree murder.
On November 13, just three hours away, a shooting occurred at the University of Virginia. Three people were killed, all of whom were on the UVA football team. And on November 22, seven people died in a mass shooting at a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia. Mass shootings like this have only been rising in frequency, which is incredibly alarming. As of November 29, there have been 617 mass shootings in 2022 alone. That’s more mass shootings than there are days in the year.
Conversations about gun safety and laws regarding the 2nd Amendment have been going on for years. Some people argue that people kill people, not guns, so gun access shouldn’t be restricted. Others argue that putting more bans on guns would decrease the number of mass shootings. Regardless, human lives are at stake daily, and not nearly enough is being done to prevent these shootings.
I live in a household where each person spends five days a week in a school building. My parents give up so much of their time and energy devoting themselves to providing good education to their students, whether they’re middle schoolers or kindergarteners. In addition, they are expected to put their life on the line in the case of an active shooter to protect their students. I don’t want my last words to my parents to be rushed goodbyes as I’m running to catch the bus. I am ever so grateful to have two parents in my life, and I’d much rather keep that than read about a heroic teacher passing away in a school shooting, knowing I’d never see one of my parents again. My heart hurts when my brothers don’t feel safe going to school. My heart hurts thinking about an empty bedroom and an empty seat at the table.
One bill in this year’s Congress regarding gun safety is the Assault Weapons Ban of 2022, which would make it a crime to sell or own a semiautomatic assault weapon without special permissions (such as being a law enforcement officer). The bill passed in the House of Representatives, but has not passed in the Senate and is unlikely to do so. Another bill named the “Protecting Our Kids Act,” would increase the age limit on purchasing certain firearms and modernize the prohibition on ghost guns. While bills on gun safety have historically been knocked down time and time again in Congress, setting limitations on who can own certain guns could prevent a number of tragedies.
When will it be enough? When will people stop worrying about becoming another statistic? When will students no longer have to learn how to avoid, deny, and defend? When will we stop looking for exits and places to hide in every classroom I enter? When will someone be able to turn on the news without hearing about another school shooting? When will we stop praying that our parents and siblings make it home safe at the end of the day? When will people stop having to bury their loved ones because government officials would rather stand proudly behind the 2nd Amendment than acknowledge the human lives being lost? When will we stop seeing tributes on our Instagram feeds because of gun violence? When is #NeverAgain enough? When will it truly never happen again?