When the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting happened on 14 December 2012, I was 11. School ended early that day and I was confused as to why. When I got home, my uncle sat me down and tried to explain what had happened. It was so hard for me to understand. Why would someone walk into an elementary school and murder 26 people, most of them under 10-years-old?
As I got older though, it became even harder for me to understand why the government had taken no significant action to fix the problem. In other developed countries, after a school shooting, or any mass shooting, there have been policy changes that have seen the number of such tragedies reduced to almost zero. Why hasn’t that happened here?
Our high school years are supposed to be some of the best of our lives. It’s the time when we are supposed to start to find ourselves, hang out with friends, have our first love, and, of course, study to prepare for college. What’s not supposed to be a part of the high school experience, though, is the fear that someone will walk into our classroom with a gun. Yet this is a fear that has become commonplace amongst teenagers since the Columbine shooting in 1999.
Earlier this year, on 14 February 2018, there was a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that left 17 people dead, 15 of which were students. Since this tragedy, there has been much more talk and action regarding gun control, most of which comes from students all across America.
There were school shootings when our parents were kids too, but since the late 1990s, they have been getting far deadlier. In the past 19 years, such shootings have claimed the lives of 122 children and emotionally scarred a further 187,000. Between 2013 and 2015 alone, there were 142 school shootings, according to the pro-regulation campaign group Everytown. Since the beginning of this year, there have been over a dozen school shootings. All of these tragedies have left students scared to be in their place of education, while their parents feel nervous about dropping them off.
This is why we are starting to rise up and demand change. We are tired of walking into a classroom and wondering which seat would offer us quickest access to a hiding spot. That is not a dilemma anybody should have to deal with in exchange for receiving an education.
Yes, there is heightened security on campuses, but rather than being comforting, it makes school seem like a ticking time bomb – as though we are just waiting for something bad to happen. Prior to the Parkland shooting, my campus in California had two unarmed security guards; now we have four, and they all carry guns. And yet their presence won’t stop people from coming onto campuses and shooting. Stricter gun laws are how we will prevent these heinous crimes.
Which is why we walked out on 14 March, to show those who supposedly represent us that we know what’s happening and we are fed up with it. The only way to solve the problem is to implement stricter firearm laws and ban the semi-automatic rifles.
Our president needs to listen to us, because in 2020 there will be another election – and the students of today will be voting.
The teenagers of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have worked to keep the conversation around gun control in the news, and inspired many more to speak up. And it’s not just students taking a stand; that our politicians won’t take the necessary steps to create significant change is making many angry. Even in my hometown, in the Central Valley of California, a conservative area where people are generally pro-gun and anti-gun control, people’s opinions on gun control have started to shift.
Being actively involved in a movement like this gives me hope. Hope that we can make a significant difference; to change the gun laws and get the semi-automatic rifles banned. There’s hope that we can bring the number of school shootings in the US down to zero.
In the future, I never want to have to explain to my kids that people could come into their school and start shooting. I don’t want my kids to go to school with fear that they, or their peers, might not make it home – a fear that many students have today. This is why we walked out. This is why we will vote. This is why we march. There is strength in numbers, and millions of people all over America are joining the movement.
Lauren Banister is 16 years old and a high school student in the United States.