Written by Morgan Bundrant, 17, Senior at Vista Murrieta High School
The increase in frequency in gun shootings and school shootings in America has left my generation constantly aware of tragedy and violence in the news. How has this affected our well being, especially when we have to go to school every day, the second most frequent site for active shooters in America?
I can recall going to school the day after the first mass shooting that I was old enough to grasp the impact of, the Sandy Hook massacre. As I walked into school on December 15, 2012, what was usually a talkative and energetic morning class was a half-empty classroom of silent, despondent seventh graders. My teacher attempted to ignore the issue that caused this sudden change in her class demeanor, but as one of my classmates broke down into tears out of grief and distress, my teacher was forced to address the tragedy that had occurred less than 24 hours prior, not being able to fully assure our safety.
After the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, I remember a classmate approaching me with eyebrows furrowed, recounting the recurring nightmares she has about mass shootings happening on my school campus. “I get these nightmares after every shooting,” she said, “It just reminds me that it can happen anywhere.”
It wasn’t until after I organized a walkout on March 14, 2018, to protest gun violence that I truly understood the range of influence gun violence has, even on my campus. After a survivor of the Las Vegas Route 91 Shooting gave a speech at this protest, multiple students approached me after the walk out to tell me how important this issue is to them and how gun violence has influenced their lives. One student said, “When I was in middle school I was involved in a school shooting, and until now I haven’t been able to find closure. This walkout gave me the peace of mind that I am not alone, and that students are fighting for me and other victims.”
This American disease hasn’t just impacted wealthy areas like that of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School; every demographic, every income level, and every race has been influenced by gun violence, and this has taken a toll on how a child or teenager attends school in modern America. Being that a student living in the United States, in comparison to the Scandinavian countries of Finland or Sweden, is 13 times more likely to be killed in a gun homicide.
It seems as though after every mass shooting, the tragedy is covered extensively in the news as the country sees the crying faces of grieving students and family members, politicians send their thoughts and prayers, and then the conversation is lost with no changes made.
Don’t get me wrong.
This cycle of news coverage and thoughtful messages is important; thoughts and prayers are necessary and vital to the support of victims of mass shootings. However, this should not be where the conversation ends. No matter what the solution to gun violence is, the status quo is not working. Students no longer feel safe at schools, and we are tired of constantly seeing the faces and biographies of students like us on every news source after a school shooting. The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas was particularly emotional for me because I saw myself and my classmates in every one of the victims. I realized that it should not take a mass shooting to happen at my school for me to care about finding justice for these victims or for me to fight for a solution.
So, I wrote my Congressman. I set up a voter registration drive at my school. I reached out to my school’s administration to talk about school shootings. No matter their political beliefs, I am encouraging students on my campus to use their voices as citizens to contribute to the solution of this defining problem of our generation.
This may be a problem that my generation inherited, but that won’t stop us from finding a solution.