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We've Had Enough: 13 Teens Weigh in on the Gun Issue

Lily Seltz

March 14th, 2018

On February 14, 2018, Nikolas Cruz, a 19 year old former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida walked into school with a semiautomatic rifle (AR 15) and started openly shooting, which ended with the untimely deaths of a football coach, an athletic director, and 15 young students.

 

This recent school shooting in the U.S. has sparked the conversation for gun control once again, although this time uproar for gun reform has been taken into the hands of the students. In the past, the youth have stood up for their rights whether it was for the right to love, or for the rights of students in schools, and for the right to not be discriminated against by the government no matter their race, sexuality or gender, or rights of students in schools, and now, the youth have risen again.

 

First in Parkland, Florida, the students directly affected by the shooting in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have been peacefully protesting outside of their school, urging the youth to protest for gun reform. Many say that Cruz had mental health issues and that he needed help, and most youth protesters don’t disagree with the fact that we need more mental health care to ensure the safety of students, but like the Stoneman Douglas High student Emma Gonzalez said, “He wouldn’t have killed that many people with a knife.” Their examples are being followed by more schools in Florida, and now, the message has been passed on to the rest of the youth in the US. The debate of gun control has now rolled around once again, but now students in Florida, and all over the country, are not letting it go.

 

-Raiana Khan

 

Our Thoughts: An open letter to national politicians who don't support gun safety legislation

 

I’ve lived in the US for fourteen years, which is really not a long time. But in that period - 2003-2018 - the US has stood witness to 187 school shootings.

 

187. That means that on average, school shootings happen more than once a month. Every month, some students sit for a Science test, some make a poster for History class, some turn in an English paper, and some see their classmates shot. Within this bloody routine, it’s not hard to foresee the next tragedy.

 

Still, somehow, we have evaded or postponed a solution. But this has to be confronted, and now. Any later, more of us could already be dead. If you imply through words or actions that gun violence doesn’t need to be confronted decisively, you are telling me, my classmates, and all America’s children: “I don’t care whether you live or die.”

 

School shootings aren’t unavoidable. Without a gun, Nikolas Cruz couldn’t have killed 17 people. There were dozens of reasons why he should’ve been kept away from the instrument he used to kill. But the laws gave him an easy road to murder. From your place behind those laws, I ask that you close off that road for once and for all.

 

- Lily Erickson Seltz

* * *

 

On the morning of February 14th, seventeen people left their houses, unaware that it would be their last. Their parents can’t remember if they said “I love you,” and now they won’t have the chance. Ever.

 

Think about how permanent that is.

 

There were a handful of red flags concerning Nikolas Cruz; an obsession with weapons, a school expulsion, and mental instability, all of which should be reported in the future, but it is undeniable that without a gun in his hands, he couldn’t have killed seventeen people. Seventeen people would be laughing with their families today, doing everything you do without a second thought.

 

But still, we hear the same set of rehearsed excuses from our government, pressing for reform which targets anything except the problem. In my fourteen years, there have been 187 school shootings; don’t let this one fade into the background. Listen to our voices, because something needs to change, and we won’t stop until it does.

 

I am scared. And in your place, it is your responsibility to make me feel safe — I ask that you push for laws that will.

 

- Sandhya Sethuraman

* * *

 

Until Congress passes comprehensive gun safety legislation, we will live, work, and learn under the spectre of gun violence. Until assault weapons (machines designed specifically to kill) are banned, the United States will remain a country in which leaders tolerate violence and prize narrow political goals over so many lives. Until common-sense background checks are universal, more innocent people will die.

 

In our lifetimes, 187 school shootings and countless other acts of gun violence have devastated this country and put children and students in grave danger. More guns are not the answer; we need strict laws without loopholes.

 

Our generation will be the one to fight back, to say no more deaths, to push for change. We make not yet have the power to vote, but we can still advocate for the kind of laws that will save lives. Remember, this issue will not go away. In a few short years, we will arrive at the voting booth to show you just how much we care. Until that time, we will never stop demanding that you do everything you can to end this epidemic of gun violence.

 

- Sophie Cooper

* * *

 

I heard about it that night: Parkland. Nikolas Cruz. School shooting. Seventeen dead. Seventeen dead, all thanks to a gun.

 

My parents told me, that night, to run the other way if I ever saw a shooter, to do anything as long as I stayed alive. What a world we live in, where our parents have to ask themselves if their children will come home.

 

Why do I have to worry about my life in a place that was supposedly safe? Why are there still guns that are floating around? Who dreams of shooting students, students with hopes and dreams just like us? What happens once someone like Cruz has access to weapons?

 

Seventeen dead.

 

Schools aren’t safe from guns. 187 school shootings in my lifetime, just fifteen years. We are sitting ducks in this matter, but not silent ones. I want action from those who have the power to act, not words that are only filled with empty words and lies. I don’t want debates about our safety, I don’t want this shooting to be forgotten for the 187nd time.

 

I just want action from you.

 

- Vanessa Liang

* * *

 

Our esteemed leader has outdone himself. In the wake of the horrific massacre of 17 students in Parkland, our president’s brilliant solution to gun violence is arming teachers. Despite being ridiculously counter-intuitive and senseless, it was short enough to tweet and therefore was the best idea on the table.

 

Students my age are not only terrified of shooters like Nikolas Cruz, but even more terrified that with current trends, nothing will change. In the 14 years I have been alive 187 school shootings have taken place, and if anything our leaders seem to be regressing. The corruption is blatant as the NRA has mercilessly bullied and bribed to make sure their business is secure.

 

The fate of guns will rest in my generation, and already nationwide students like myself are speaking up about the atrocities that have occurred. If we can work together to solve this crisis, perhaps in the future this incident will be remembered as the last appalling school shooting, that moved our officials to action. Prove to us that you are not just another NRA minion, and vote for tighter gun regulations.

 

- Petra Popper-Freedman

* * *

 

I find American people to fight against one thing more than anything else: complacency. When someone of great power is faces with an issue and chooses to be complacent, the American population fights back. That’s the origin of free speech against the government and of protest, isn’t it? Taking action is more important than ever when it feels like no one else is doing anything.

 

That’s how American students are currently feeling. Those in power are taking insufficient steps to protect the rights, the lives, of 74.6 million students from pre-k through college. The lives of over ¼ of US citizens. So, it seems, we’re the only ones devoted to doing anything to catalyze change.

 

To quote The New York Times’s “Go Ahead, Millennials, Destroy Us” by Tim Kreider, “anyone who has ever tried to argue with adolescents knows that in the end they will have a thousand times more energy for that fight than you and a bottomless reservoir of moral rage that you burned out long ago.”

 

He’s right, we do, and we’re not going to stop. Eventually, we’ll be the ones in charge; we with our leftist opinions and desires to protect our own rights to live. When that time comes, which it will in the not-so-distant future, you better watch out. We’re coming for your gun legislation.

 

- Betty Kubovy-Weiss

* * *

 

I used to think the defining issue of our generation would be climate change. Now I'm starting to think that it's gun control. No one ever anticipated that preventing young children from getting murdered in their own schools would become so controversial. It seems so simple, because it is: ban bump stocks, assault rifles, and automatic weapons, and implement universal background checks. Why would anyone ever need an assault rifle, or a tool that would upgrade a regular gun to one, for personal use? The overused defense by gun owners that they need protection flies out the window; no one needs an AK-47 to defend their homes. Universal background checks don't even need an argument.

 

No one is trying to abolish the 2nd Amendment; people are entitled to their guns. But there's a reason they're military-style weapons: they're meant for the military, not for regular citizens.

 

It's unconscionable that members of Congress, bribed by the NRA, would rather suffer through more mass shootings and tragedies than take action and save lives. You know in your hearts that it's wrong; you just need to break free of the gun lobby and the loud trolls on the fringe, and do what's right.

 

I have hope that the Parkland shooting is the last straw; students are certainly mobilizing like never before. I believe the government can come around and finally enact legislation that ensures no guns, let alone assault rifles and automatic weapons, will fall into the hands of felons with a violent past or the mentally ill. Otherwise, blood will continue to be on your hands.

 

-Russell Leung

* * *

 

187 school shootings have taken place in the United States since 2003. Countless students have been killed or injured in a school shooting, or have been traumatized by experiencing one. So many acts of gun violence occur in this country, promoting cruelty and hate, fear and confusion. This is a matter that refuses to be ignored; a matter that is demanding to be given serious attention by those with the power to change our country’s gun laws.

 

No student should have to come to school, afraid of the possibility of a shooting. If anyone can get their hands on a gun, a machine with the power to murder and end innocent lives, students have a valid reason to be afraid of the what if. A school should be a safe learning environment not an easy target for shooters.

 

Thousands of people all across the country have come together demanding change; marching and protesting because our supposedly stable country doesn’t have gun control legislation. People of all ages, especially teens are showing you just how much we really do care about this issue and need it to be addressed seriously. Not in a tweet, not in thoughts and prayers but in the form of gun control laws set in stone that will help create a more peaceful future. We the people of the United States of America are crying out for change; for the protection of students instead of the protection of guns. We are asking for you to listen and to truly care.

 

- Ava Barham

* * *

 

I’ve noticed the presence of gun violence my entire life. I watched a lot of news as a child; I knew what happened at Columbine before I was eight years old. I remember when the Sandy Hook Massacre happened in 2012. I was in fourth grade; 20 students, just younger than me, were killed at their elementary school.

 

Three weeks ago, seventeen were killed at another school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen. Some of them the same age as me: fifteen, with their entire lives ahead of them. We’ve heard 19 years of thoughts and prayers since Columbine. We’ve been hearing thoughts and prayers our whole lives, growing in complexity and complacency as kids our age continue to be murdered.

 

There will be no more thoughts and prayers. There will be no more avoiding the issue.

For the first time I feel hopeful that something is going to change. That #NeverAgain might actually be never again. We must grab these reigns and take our future into our own hands. We must walk out and march and show them that the youth of this country are unstoppable. We are not going to continue to rely on lawmakers drowning in NRA blood money who value their position over our safety and security. We are going to make the change.

 

- Josephine O’Brien

* * *

 

187. 187 words for 187 times that someone has gone into a school with a gun to shoot another person. That's 187 times too many.

The fact that I have to even think about writing this is ridiculous. There is no reason that after the first school shooting, that someone else should have been allowed the tools to go back into a school and shoot some more.

 

Violence happens. But we are capable of mitigating the situations in which it can happen. Are we so blind that we fail to see what the problem is? It’s not the person. It’s a system that makes it easy for people to kill. Time and time we have tried again to make a change but for some reason, nothing we do can make it happen.

 

It is time for people to wake up. It was time 187 times ago for people to wake up. Please, people wake up. I am - we are all - begging you to wake up and to realize that this is the future of our world that is being destroyed. It should not happen. It cannot happen.

 

- Rohan Luthra

* * *

 

Enough is enough and never again. For too long we have endured tragedy after tragedy, shooting after shooting, candlelight vigils, memorials and sympathy catch phrases.

 

Teens in this country are aware of what is happening; we have the tools to communicate this awareness and we are fed up with politicians and corporations sending their “thoughts and prayers” while deals are made with the National Rifle Association and while the gun lobby gets stronger and more ingrained in the American legislative fabric.

 

FedEx, Amazon and Apple, who continue to provide NRA membership benefits or support the NRA platform: that means you. Politicians with an “A” rating from the NRA, who accept money in exchange for legislative favors: that means you. President Donald J. Trump: that means you.

 

Our movement is important because we have inherited a society where a perceived right to own guns, military-grade weaponry, is valued above our right to safely go to school or be in public environments, our right to live. We have inherited a society where someone not old enough to drink or smoke can shoot.

 

We must do everything in our power to make sure the adults know we are not on board with how they have been running things, and that we will not stop or be quiet until we finally see some common sense gun reform.

 

- Maria Milekhina

* * *

 

17 dead in school shooting. I wish those words had affected me more, but frankly, at this point I’m incredibly desensitized to news like that. And I really shouldn’t be. I’m 14 years old and I’ve grown up in a world where schools are a dangerous place for children in my country and it seems normal.

 

We cannot let this be normal. We cannot bring more and more people up in a world where they go to a haven for education and must fear for their lives. No one should have to be afraid that their lives will be taken by someone with anger and a gun, regardless of age.

 

But yet we’re told it’s not the time to talk about gun control, after each of these tragic events, that we must give the families of those lost time to mourn. How about we create a world where no more families and friends have to mourn? It’s time to work to stop the problem and create stricter gun regulations instead of tweeting out thoughts and prayers and giving ourselves a pat on the back.

 

Enough is enough.

 

- Lila Schisgal

* * *

 

***The figure 187 comes from a list of school shootings since the shooting at Columbine in 1999, shown by the news magazine Westword. http://www.westword.com/news/parkland-to-columbine-school-shootings-list-9993641

 

It is important to note that this figure is not and cannot ever be uncontested. There is constant debate surrounding where the line must be drawn between school shootings and other events concerning guns in schools. This figure excludes suicides and suicide attempts involving only one person, and excludes events in which only staff were killed.

 

And, needless to say, it does not list the also-horrific statistics of gun violence affecting children off of school grounds; therefore, in this way it understates the enormity of the problem. Whenever the course of a child’s day is interrupted by unwanted gunshots - whenever a child, or an adult for that matter, is injured or killed by gunfire - that in and of itself entails a problem that needs to be fixed, and immediately.

 

This letter is now a petition! Sign in support of the students and add your own contribution in the comments at https://petitions.moveon.org/sign/support-14-teen-activists/?source=search !!!

 

If you want to act to ensure that our schools - and neighborhoods - remain safe from gun violence, check out this list of organizations against gun violence - they offer petitions, resources to contact representatives about key issues, and accept donations.

 

https://momsdemandaction.org/

https://everytown.org/

http://nyagv.org/take-action/

http://giffords.org

http://csgv.org

http://bradycampaign.org

 

Also take a look at https://www.teensresist.com which is a site founded by high school students that provides materials and resources for activism on a whole host of issues!