Dear Politicians: Am I Next?
Our Message to the Lawmakers Who Let the Parkland Shooting Happen
February 14, 2018.
We rolled out of our beds, ate our breakfasts, brushed our teeth. We rummaged through our closets to find the perfect Valentine’s Day outfits, and we spent an extra moment gazing in our mirrors before heading to school. We went about our normal schedules, rolling our eyes at the couples making out in the hallways, spurning the cafeteria food in favor of Valentine candy. We packed up. We went home. We kissed our parents goodnight and we slept soundly in our beds, our biggest worries being our grades and our plans for the future. We woke up the next morning and began our routines again.
But that was not a luxury everyone had that day.
That average Wednesday was the day 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz opened fire on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida with an AR-15.
14 people were wounded, and 17 were killed. It’s hard to believe that while we were huddling with our friends making after-school plans, worrying about getting our homework done, other kids, just like us, were huddled under desks and in closets, worrying that the texts they were sending to their family members were their final goodbyes. It’s even harder to believe that this wasn’t the first, or the second, or the tenth time this has happened. It wasn’t even the first time it has happened this year. Rather, it was the 8th school shooting to occur in the United States in the first seven weeks of 2018.
2018 School Shootings
You would think after even one child is slain in a place of learning, reform would happen, but there have been 290 school shootings since the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre and lawmakers have yet to budge.
Our elected officials have chosen NRA (National Rifle Association) dollars over the lives of American citizens, and we’ve become complacent. As a society, we have become so desensitized to this violence that we’ve allowed too many innocent lives to be taken by unregulated shooters.
It is easier to purchase a gun than it is to vote. The loopholes in our country’s gun-purchasing laws allow people like Cruz—who was known to have mental health issues and even made threats about school shootings which were reported to the FBI—to legally purchase guns. In fact, only ten states require a permit or license to purchase firearms, and only three states require a license to own firearms.
When 9/11 happened, the government responded. We called for change. Airports’ regulations on liquids and the requirement to take off your shoes both came from one failed bomb attempt. And yet, the U.S.’s gun murder rate is still 25 times higher than that of 22 other developed countries. Why aren’t we reacting to these hundreds of deaths in the same manner? Every time we tune into the news and hear about mass shootings and gun attacks, we hear the same response over and over again from political figures, formulaic statements like “We are shaken that such a tragedy happened” or “We send our love and prayers to the victims’ families.” But we get no action. We get no change.
According to the second amendment, American citizens have the right to bear arms.
And there are definitely instances in which owning a gun isn’t a problem. It is possible to significantly curb gun violence without outlawing guns, and states like Massachusetts are an example. Despite the fact that the vast majority of Massachusetts citizens who apply for a license receive one, we have the lowest amount of gun-related crimes in the country.
Our strong regulations do not impede on the rights of the everyday gun owner—they simply do a better job of ensuring that guns don’t fall into the wrong hands. We have thorough background checks that screen for prior legal violations and recorded mental health issues. Additionally, a license is valid only for six years, after which a gun owner must go through the application process again, and legal authorities can take away a person’s gun if they do not abide by state regulations. We also have mandated gun safety education, which targets accidental gun deaths. Bump stocks, gun accessories which allow semi-automatic guns to fire as automatic guns, were promptly outlawed in Massachusetts following the use of one in the 2017 Las Vegas massacre. This kind of responsiveness should be the standard nationwide, on the state and federal level.
Gun ownership is considered a tenet of American culture.
We are not advocating for overturning the second amendment. All we ask for is recognition of the reality that this is something completely preventable. Along with teenagers across the nation, we are taking action and speaking out about this issue. We will raise awareness by attending protests like this month’s March For Our Lives. We will do everything we can to ensure we’ll never have to “send our thoughts and prayers” again.
This isn’t about politics. This is about preventing the call saying your child, sibling, or friend isn’t coming home after school. This is about being able to walk down the hallway without strategizing where you would hide if you heard gunshots. This is about making tragedies like this the exception—not the expectation.
The March 2018 issue of Teens In Print is dedicated to the victims of the Parkland shooting and their families: students Alyssa Alhadeff, Martin Duque Anguiano, Nicholas Dworet, Jaime Guttenberg, Luke Hoyer, Cara Loughran, Gina Montalto, Joaquin Oliver, Alaina Petty, Meadow Pollack, Helena Ramsay, Alex Schachter, Carmen Schentrup, Peter Wang, coaches Scott Beigel and Aaron Feis, and athletic director Chris Hixon.
We remember your courage, your potential, and your passion. We strive to honor your memory by turning it into substantial political action. When we think about change, we are thinking about you.
Read more from Teens in Print at bostontip.com.