‘Never again’ starts now

The generational impacts of lax gun laws on students

School shootings have plagued the United States since before most students on this campus were even alive. Unfortunately, most of today’s college students have never known what it was like to go to school before gun violence was such a threat to such a young demographic.
I was in third grade when the Sandy Hook shooting happened. I remember being glued to the TV, unable to believe what it was saying. I watched aerial footage of the shooter’s house. I saw the names and faces of 20 children and six staff members that died horrifically to gun violence. That was probably the first time in my life that I thought I would die. Then there were officials on the screen, “the good guys,” I thought. They said that they would do something to stop this. They promised “never again” and I believed them.
Six years later the Parkland shooting happened. I grew up near a school named Parkland and I thought that was the school on the news. I thought the violence had made its way into my hometown and I was terrified because there was nothing I could do to stop it.
Watching the news, I remember all the helpless cries for justice and reform. I remember watching students not much older than me give speeches, rallying adults and trying to get those in charge to understand the drastic impact that lax gun laws had on our nation. I remember thinking that this would be the event to change things around. After all, everyone promised, “never again.”
I remember when I was in elementary school, there was a Code Yellow lockdown. There was an armed man on the run from police in the area. As I continued to work in the dark of the classroom, I remember thinking that it was finally my turn. That when the nation turned on the television that night, my school, my peers and maybe even my face would be on it.
Year after year, we practiced school shooter drills. It became a normal part of life. Go to school, go to class, gym, come back from lunch and hide in the corner in the hopes that if a shooter came in they would move on to an easier target. At first, school shooter drills terrified me. I really thought that one day a crazy man was going to come into my school and kill everyone.
But then I grew up, and year after year we practiced these drills. Year after year we sat in a corner and waited for someone to pretend to save us. Eventually, it became something of a mockery. It became normalized.
Gun violence and school shootings occur so regularly that they have become normalized in America. Nobody freaks out when they hear about a tragedy like Uvalde on the news. They just offer their “thoughts and prayers” and move on with their lives because gun violence doesn’t impact them. A mass shooting would never happen in their town.
But it impacts us, the students who grew up thinking that dying at school is just a regular part of life. Accepting that living in America meant that other people’s right to bear arms came before their right to life. Hearing over and over again that gun reform is useless because if criminals want to do something like that, then they will just buy the gun illegally.
Salvador Ramos, 18, legally purchased two AR-style rifles and massacred 21 people in Uvalde. Nikolas Cruz, 19, legally purchased an AR-15 and killed 17 people in Parkland. Dylann Roof, 21, legally received a .45 caliber pistol from his father and murdered nine people with it at Charlestown Church.
Just because stricter gun laws won’t deter all crimes doesn’t mean they can’t stop most. It’s not fair to every student in the school system right now, every parent and grandparent. It’s not fair to say that stricter gun laws won’t work without even giving them a chance.
Today’s politicians don’t understand what it was like to go to school with the threat of school shooters, but we do. We know how it feels to crouch in a dark corner waiting for the police to knock on the door. We remember watching the news and seeing kids our age dying at alarming rates. We felt the fear of gun violence and its impact on our lives.
Now it is our turn to make a difference. As college students, voters and future policymakers, we must stand up to gun violence and enforce stricter gun laws. We must make sure that future generations feel safe in school. We can’t wait anymore. We can’t rely on the “good guys” to make good on their promises. It is time to take matters into our own hands and fulfill the promise that we heard a million times before. “Never again” starts now.