School in the US should not be a death sentence


In the past 25 years, major school shootings have occurred at Robb Elementary School, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Columbine High School, Santa Fe High School, Umpqua Community College, Virginia Tech, and more.

Celeste Eckstein, Copy Editor

On May 24, a rifle-bearing gunman dressed in body armor walked into Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas and took the lives of at least 19 children and two teachers. This is a story that has become all too familiar in America. Ten days prior, a gunman in Buffalo, New York opened fire on a neighborhood supermarket. He killed 10 people in the second deadliest shooting in the US in 2022, behind only the Uvalde massacre. According to the Gun Violence Archive, 14 mass shootings took place in between the two. 

As a high school sophomore, this is the only America I have ever known. My generation has grown up with active shooter drills. We can buy bulletproof backpacks online as easily as new shoes. We scan classrooms for exits, wondering where we might duck or hide if a shooter entered our school, if we became the next victims.

The infamous 1999 school shooting at Columbine High School set off serious alarms about school shootings. “Never again” was the slogan repeated across the nation. 

“Never again,” we said in 2005 after the school shooting at Red Lake High School (a mere four hours from Edina High School) and again in 2007 after the shooting at Virginia Tech. And again in 2012 (Sandy Hook Elementary School) and again in 2015 (Umpqua Community College) and again in 2018 (Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School) and hundreds of times in between. That’s what we said last week, too. Never again.

Or maybe we don’t promise that this will never happen again. Maybe we shrug our shoulders. Or we send our thoughts and prayers and then put our heads back down and keep on going until the next time this happens. Because there will be a next time. It’s not a question of if but a question of when, because nothing has changed. And still nothing changes, because we, the children, are here, and we are dying. 

Children are dying for guns that kill without regard for those on the other end—from elementary schoolers to college students to the elderly. Boys and girls, Black and white, everyone and anyone. Make no mistake, some may certainly be targeted. Just look at the Buffalo shooting, in which 10 Black people were shot by one white man who spewed white supremacist ideas and wrote a disgustingly racist manifesto. At the end of the day, though, anyone can be on the receiving end of a bullet—even you and I. There is no mercy, no exception, no escape.

The United States has 120.5 guns per every 100 civilians. That’s more than any other country, and nearly twice as many as the country in second place. In 2019, there were 53, 924 licensed federal firearm dealers. 

Mass shootings are not limited to schools. Nowhere is sacred. Churches, mosques, synagogues, grocery stores, nightclubs, movie theaters, restaurants, concerts—we are not safe anywhere. 

And still, nothing changes.

After the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, the students raised their voices. It was the survivors who were the story, not the shooter. The Parkland students were furious, as were people across the nation, and they didn’t shy away from it. The survivors organized the March for Our Lives. Student walkouts and protests swept the nation. I was in middle school, and I remember rising from my seat in class and walking outside with a mostly quiet mass of other students. We stood at the side of the road for 17 minutes—a minute for each victim. Cars drove by, some honking their support. I felt we were powerful together. There was so much support for change, I thought, how could things stay the same after this?

Stay the same they did. 

Every time another shooting occurs, I hope we will finally make progress. Regardless, legislation stalemates in Congress. I watch fiery debates spark on social media, only to fizzle out in a matter of months, or even weeks. The news seems to tell the same story over and over. We become unfeeling, desensitized. Every single time, we are less shocked and more weary. Will things ever change? we wonder. Can they? 

Are all the people killed by guns sentenced to be martyrs for the weapon of their death?  Is this the price we pay for guns and liberties? This is the United States, after all—time and time again, we’ve demonstrated we value guns over people.

So what happens next? If we’re looking for strong legal action to prevent these massacres (which has not been achieved, even after previous large-scale school shootings), serious change is required. President Biden has expressed his desire to take action and tighten gun laws. “Why are we willing to live with this carnage?” he asked while giving remarks on the Robb Elementary School shooting. “We have to make it clear to every elected official in this country: It’s time to act.”

Regardless of Biden’s hopes, he won’t be able to accomplish much without support from Congress. The success or failure of potential legislation entirely depends on navigating the 50-50 Democrat-Republican split in the Senate. The House of Representatives has already passed two bills to strengthen background checks, but they are likely to languish in the Senate despite popularity with voters. 

34 out of 100 seats in the Senate are up for general election this November. If we ever want change—if we want to prevent further tragedy—it’s up to the citizens to tell their representatives to support gun control bills, and simply to vote. According to the New York Times, 14 Republican senators have already expressed they would not support gun safety legislation. 

Preventing the deaths of American children should not be a political issue. Regardless of ideology, no one is safe from the constant threat of guns that has become so integral to life in the US. Other nations have enacted stricter gun regulations in the wake of mass shootings that have largely been successful.  The US could do the same, but the citizens must raise our voices. Most other students and I aren’t eligible to vote, so the responsibility of making real progress through elections falls upon the shoulders of adult voters. It’s up to them to protect our futures and our lives.

We must show our representatives that we will not allow life to continue in this way, that we will not allow more preventable deaths. After all, the government is meant to serve the interests of the people.

Schools have become battlegrounds, and eight-year-olds are watching their friends die as if they’re fighting in a war. It’s the duty of every individual citizen to take a stand against gun violence in our schools and beyond. Use your voice, speak out, contact your representatives, and show you will not be complacent in this endless cycle of murder.