Unregulated Guns Are Claiming Innocent Lives


Cartoon by Jinle Zhu

I have never been in a situation where a gunman has sought to take my life, and I can’t even imagine the horrors that go along with an event like that.

My experiences with school shootings have only been in hypothetical. I remember just about four years ago, sitting in class as a fourteen year old freshman, being told how to act if there ever happened to be a shooter in our school.

Sitting in a place where every kid should feel safe and learning around friends, hearing that discussion made me feel the opposite. It almost seemed as if a school shooting would be inevitable.

Of course, it is necessary to have these discussions, for it is better to be aware of how to protect ourselves in the event of an actually shooting. But there should be no school shootings.

On Feb. 14th, Nikolas Cruz took the lives of 17 students and faculty members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Parkland, Florida. The nineteen-year-old slaughtered these innocent people using a Smith and Wesson M&P15, that manufacturer’s version of the AR-15. These assault-style rifles have been used by the U.S. Military since the late 1950’s, and have seen many versions throughout its existence.

Just a week after the horrific event, students, parents and teachers met in Sunrise, Florida for a CNN town hall. It gave this group a chance to express their thoughts and feelings on the gun laws in America. They were joined by Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, as well as Rep. Ted Deutch, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel and National Rifles Association spokeswoman Dana Loesch.

I am a believer in the 2nd Amendment, but there is no reason a person my age should be able to get a gun. There is no reason for anyone to get a military grade assault rifle. There is no reason people should be living in fear of the next mass shooting. There is no reason that our government should be more concerned about protecting guns over American lives.

The consensus from the students, parents and teachers at the town hall: we want change, and we want it now.

In the past, fingers have only been pointed at who and what is to blame for all of this mainstreaming of death.

It is time for our elected officials to stop pointing fingers and start passing bills that effectively regulate the purchasing of automatic weapons that kill.

The current gun regulations have not been working. The past year has seen a number of horrific shootings, including the horrific shooting in Parkland, FL, in which 17 students and teachers were killed, and the massacre at a Las Vegas concert, in which 59 people were killed.

It seems evident that gun violence in America is only getting worse.

The NRA has led the opposition to gun control in recent years.

At the CNN town hall, Emma Gonzalez, a senior from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, questioned NRA representative Dana Loesch on whether she thinks it should be harder to obtain semi-automatic rifles and modifications such as bump stocks to enhance the firing of the weapon.

“I don’t believe that this insane monster should have ever been able to obtain a firearm, ever,” Loesch said. “I do not think that [Nikolas Cruz] should have gotten his hands on any kind of weapon. That’s number one.”

Loesch blamed the violence on Cruz’s mental illness.

While mental health can contribute to the problem, this is primarily a gun issue. Mental health supports could help identify disturbed individuals and potentially prevent some killings, but guns are the tools that allow these individuals to kill so many people so quickly.

The NRA says we need to find ways to identify the mentally ill who have access to guns, rather than more heavily regulate the weapons of death themselves.

I will say I agree with the fact that we need better methods of identifying people who cause a threat to the public.

In fact, an idea discussed during the CNN town hall debate was the Baker Act, a law passed in Florida in 1971, which allowed authorities to bring in identified persons with mental health problems and give them access to rehabilitation programs.

Police would then have the right to confiscate anything that would do harm to the public, including guns.

Regardless of my support for this act, the fact of the matter is that nobody, and I repeat, NOBODY, should be able to legally purchase guns like an AR-15, a gun used by soldiers in the army, which, if automatic, allows the shooter to fire off 600 shots per minute.

As a student who cares for the wellbeing of my classmates, I offer this solution to help identify those who may be a threat to others.

We are all responsible for the solution: students, teachers and administrators.

Students, of course, should always tell their teachers if they’ve noticed anything suspicious or different about their classmates.

But I also think that there should be mandatory meetings, maybe once a month, where teachers and administrators can meet to have an open discussion on how students have been acting. This would allow teachers to openly express concerns about the safety and mental health of all students.

Students have the right to feel safe in their learning environment, and as of now, the laws of this country are making it harder for students to feel that they are in safe and secure schools.

As a citizen of this country who wants only to see our nation thrive, I say this to the lawmakers on Capitol Hill:

This gun issue transcends political parties. Please, set your differences aside and come to a compromise as soon as possible to get assault rifles off of our streets. The longer you wait, the more lives will be lost.

I am a believer in the 2nd Amendment, but there is no reason a person my age should be able to get a gun. There is no reason for anyone to get a military grade assault rifle. There is no reason people should be living in fear of the next mass shooting. There is no reason that our government should value gun rights more than American lives.

Do the right thing, members of Congress. It’s your decisions that play the ultimate role in ending this devastating violence.