Murrah High School / Power APAC Theatre Arts Department students joining hands in solidarity for the victims of school shootings on the anniversary of the Columbine shooting. Photo courtesy of Malaika Quarterman.
As daybreak begins and sunlights peeks past the trees, a routine day of school begins in
Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012. Approximately 700 students stroll into the building, attempting to prepare for another adventurous day of elementary school. For Sandy Hook Elementary, cheers of laughter and chants of glee are not present for long. Unfortunately, many of us are aware of the way this story ends: with 20-year-old Adam Lanza replacing that laughter with horrendous cries of pain and blood-curdling screams.
In the past, students dreaded going to school for fear of work assigned by teachers. Today, students dread going to school for fear of the safety of their own lives.
The story of Sandy Hook is hardly a rare occurrence. In fact, after Sandy Hook, there has been over 200 school shootings in the United States alone. According to CNN, there has been approximately 1 school shooting, on average, every week since March in the 2018 year. America leads the world in amount of school shootings, despite the numerous amounts of fabricated claims depicting our country as the safest nation and as the land of the free.
As the United States continues through a year full of massacre and pain, how can change come forth during our desperate time of need?
School Shootings: Explained
Several people might be wondering, “What exactly constitutes as a school shooting?”
A school shooting is an incident that takes place at an educational facility involving the use of guns with the intention to kill or harm several people. Many people attribute the occurrence of school shootings or mass shootings in general to mental illness. While this is sometimes the case, mental illness is not always the leading cause. In fact, a recent study showed that only about 22 percent of mass shooters suffer from serious mental illnesses. The other 78 percent do not. Symptoms such as antisocial behavior, extreme paranoia, bullying and anxiety cultivated along with stress or a significant traumatic experiences can drive one to commit something as extreme as a mass murder.
Due to the recent outbreak in school shootings, a serious call to action has been taken in regards to youth mental health. Several mental health specialists have been making efforts to try and catch these “red flags” in today’s youth and put a stop to them so that we can prevent devastating attacks like these mass shootings from happening.
The school shooting epidemic started On October 1, 1997 in Pearl, Mississippi, when 16 year old Luke Woodham opened fire at Pearl High School with a Marlin Model 336 caliber rifle.The massacre started early that morning at the shooters home when he brutally stabbed and shot his mother to death. He then drove to his school and shot 9 students, killing 2.
Legislative Action (Or Lack Thereof)
Jeffrey Caliedo speaking at the walk out on April 20. Photo by Kaitlyn Fowler.
The fact of the matter is this: legislative action is and has been proven to reduce the amount of school shootings.
On April 16, 2018, a new Vermont gun law prevented an 18-year-old pondering a school shooting from obtaining a firearm which he could have easily obtained in another state. Gov. Phil Scott signed the bill which prevented anyone plotting a mass shooting from obtaining a firearm, essentially stopping the potential massacre before it could begin. The bill allows restrictions on gun ownership, which included new background check requirements and age restrictions on gun purchases and a ban on bump stocks.
The suspect, Jack Sawyer, kept a diary entitled “Journal of an Active Shooter” in which he detailed a plan for a shooting at Fair Haven Union High School. Bills such as the one passed in New Vermont limit mass shootings, and implementing similar bills in the future would greatly reduce the number of school shootings in the United States.
America leads in school shootings because the United States Congress has been unwilling to make efforts towards gun control. Even after countless amounts of steadily increasing deaths, shootings, and massacres, the US government has remained at a standstill with no progress.
Despite having ample time and obvious reason to take legislative action, CNN Politics reports that “more than four months after the deadliest shooting in modern US history, Congress has yet to send any firearm-related bill aimed to curb gun violence to the President's desk.”
In a nation where approximately 13,000 people are killed by firearms and 27,000 are injured in one year alone, legislative action to reduce gun violence is the only option.
Unfortunately, when the government does attempt to implement change, the approach is extremely lacking in terms of actual substance. Take for instance the “solution” to reduce school shootings after the massacre at Parkland Douglass High.
Five weeks after the historic shooting, students return back to Stoneman only to be greeted with mandated security checks and the abrupt requirement to wear clear backpacks at all time.
These new security requirements are only counterproductive, as the shooter was not a student of Stoneman at the time. Forcing students to follow countless unnecessary precautions ultimately does not protect them and only creates a false illusion of security instead.
Isabelle Robinson, a senior at the school, told reporters that her experience returning to the school “felt like being punished.” Robinson continued to comment on the school’s decision to force all students to wear clear backpacks, even going as far to say, "It feels like jail, being checked every time we go to school."
Punishing students for situations out of their control is never the answer. During the time of these horrendous crimes, shooters like Nikolas Cruz and Adam Lanza did not attend the schools in which they committed mass murder. Therefore, punishing the students of these schools has no real impact.
Progress is not created through detrimental repercussions on students; progress is made through active, effective legislative action that targets reducing the actual attainability of firearms.
The Bigger Picture
This year so far, about 24 people have been killed in school shootings and more than 40 have been injured.
It contradicts our constitutional right to life when several innocent lives are lost continuously without any responsive action and it will keep happening if no attempts are made to fix it. As cliche as it might sound, children are the future and if we keep killing them, there will be no future.
Although there has not been many legislative actions made to end gun violence as a whole, there have been genuine efforts made to raise awareness and bring conversation about the importance of gun control. The #MarchForOurLives Movement was jump started by survivors of the Stoneman Douglass school shooting to honor the lives lost in that massacre. This event was very popular worldwide and several influential people showed their support.
We all know horror stories of Sandy Hook, Pearl High, and Parkland Douglass. We all are forced to bear the bleak reality that the United States has approximately 300 million guns, nearly one for every member of the population. Ultimately, we can attribute these continuous school shootings to the United States’ high gun ownership rates.
We cannot change the mistakes that plague our history. We cannot rewrite our past faults. However, we can continue to advocate for a change in our nation’s future, one step at a time.