With many recent mass shootings in the United States, debates over gun control have continued to divide the population. People say "never again", yet there remains a continuous cycle of brutality. Why hasn't there been change?
In the Classroom
I planned my first escape route when I was eight years old. During my elementary school's occasional active shooter drills, I realized that all of the "good" spots in the classroom were taken in an instant. I imagined that, if someone were to break into my classroom, most of my third-grade class would not be safe at all.
I then made a plan for my great escape. I decided that, if there were a "bad guy" at school, I would climb out of the window and hide on the roof.
No elementary schooler should have these thoughts. The same applies to middle and high schoolers. No student should have to risk their lives for an education. A school is meant to be a safe place to learn, not a place to consider chances of survival and formulate hiding tactics.
For many students, school has not been a safe place at all. On May 24, 2022, 19 students and two teachers were fatally shot at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, in what is now considered the third deadliest school shooting in the United States, following the Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook shootings. The weapon used? A semi-automatic rifle.
This event spurred mass discourse regarding gun control in America. Some argued for increased mental health support for students. Others pushed for schools to have more security.
While we could implement extensive security measures in places of learning and arm teachers, wouldn't that basically make schools a prison? Why would we have teachers protect students in place of law enforcement? Whatever happened to a safe learning environment?
In the Uvalde shooting, the culprit entered the school through a back door. While I do believe that some schools may need more security, this is not the entire solution.
In the World
The United States has already surpassed 200 mass shootings this year. According to the Gun Violence Archive, there were 692 mass shootings in 2021 alone.
I never realized the true extent of shootings in America until August 3, 2019, when a large one occurred at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Many of my family members live in the area and shop at that specific branch, with my aunt only 10 minutes away. On that day, in what is considered one of the deadliest attacks on Latinos in history, 23 people were murdered and another 23 injured. The weapon used? A semi-automatic rifle.
I began to wonder: What if it were them? What if my family members had decided to go shopping that day?
I then realized that, for many people, it was them. Every person killed had a family who would never have expected something like this to occur.
After the shooting, nothing changed.
Members of the Republican Party condemned the attack, but did nothing to stop future ones. Texas Senator John Cornyn stated that gun violence would not be solved by putting the focus on law-abiding citizens. Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick blamed violent video games.
The real reason this shooting was able to take place was because of guns. While mental health strongly contributes to gun violence, the ultimate factor is the weapon used. Harvard studies show that states with higher gun ownership have higher rates of firearm homicide. If access to such weapons were limited, the amount of gun violence would decrease.
Many other countries have been able to create change. After 35 people were killed at the Port Arthur massacre in Australia, the Australian government introduced the National Firearms Agreement. This piece of legislation outlawed pump-action shotguns and semi-automatic and automatic rifles. Over 640,000 guns were bought back and destroyed.
What Needs to Change
When the Second Amendment was drafted, dangerous firearms such as semi-automatic rifles did not exist. Back in the Revolutionary Era, muskets and pistols were far less capable of inflicting mass carnage in comparison to modern weapons. According to The Washington Post, muskets used were relatively inaccurate and could only fire about 3 rounds per minute, which is considerably less than the modern-day AR-15's 45 rounds per minute. As technology improves and firearms become increasingly dangerous, regulations must evolve, as well. Those afraid of infringing on the Second Amendment must take into account the dangers of modern assault weapons. Prohibiting such firearms would decrease the number of deaths and injuries due to mass shootings.
I am currently 17 years old. It is unfathomable to think that, in a year, I will be eligible to purchase a gun; I cannot even legally drink until I am 21. Most people don't reach full maturity until the age of 25. Research suggests that the brain's prefrontal cortex, or the part of the brain important for impulse control and judgment, does not fully develop until one's mid-20s. The majority of school shooters thus far have been young and should not have been allowed access to firearms in the first place. Laws regarding the minimum age to purchase a gun vary by state. At the very least, no 18-year-old should be able to buy a firearm anywhere.
While federal law requires background checks for guns sold by licensed dealers, this system has a significant loophole: those sold by unlicensed ones don't. If the United States followed suit with other countries such as Australia and Great Britain, gun violence would surely decrease.
There is no immediate solution. There is no easy answer. But there is a need to take action and create change. People are dying. Children are dying. It has become normal to hear about mass shootings on the news because it happens so often. If the United States continues to remain passive, we will continue to experience the loss of thousands of lives.
We want to be safe in school. We want to be safe in public. We're terrified, and we need action now.
We need to say "never again" with the intention of actually creating change.