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Photo courtesy of nbcmiami.com

Macy is a high-school student in Boulder who interns with Cultures of Dignity. She is very passionate about women’s rights, human rights, social justice, and gun control.


Locks, Lights, Out of Sight

By Macy Miller

 

“Locks, Lights, Out Of Sight.” In the current generation of elementary to college students, this phrase is anything but unknown. Lockdown drills have become as routine as fire drills, with assemblies specifically designated for learning protocol in the event of a dangerous situation. This should not be the reality. Students should be able to feel and be safe in their learning environments. They should be taught math and science, not taught how to hide if an active shooter is in the building. No 6-year-old should come home crying from school because they realized they can’t wear light-up sneakers anymore because, in the event of a school shooting, the flashing lights would give them away.

From January to October of 2018 alone, there were 17 school shootings, including the deadliest school shooting in America’s history in Parkland, Florida, during which 17 students and staff were killed, with 17 more severely injured. School shootings are a prevalent problem in today’s society, affecting not only students and faculty but the families of these students and faculty. School violence and school shootings are issues that affect everyone and need to be properly addressed in order to create and enforce meaningful and impactful reform.

Just a few weeks ago at my own school, and all of the other schools in the Metro Denver Area of Colorado were canceled for the day. Why? Because an 18-year-old girl flew all the way from Florida to Colorado on a one-way ticket and purchased a gun. This girl had publicly expressed her fascination with the Columbine school shooting of 1999. As soon as she landed in Colorado with essentially a national manhunt organized to find her, she was able to purchase a gun. No waiting period, and clearly, not a thorough background check, if any. The fact that an entire school district saw this threat and concluded that their best option to keep their students safe was to cancel school is an issue. The fact that this girl was able to purchase a gun while the FBI was trying to track her as a national threat is a problem- if background checks for gun-buyers are as strict as organizations like the NRA claim them to be, why was this so easy for this hardly-legal teenager?

When I saw the email about my school’s closure for the day and the reasons behind it, I honestly was not very surprised. It is definitely scary, of course, but not surprising. This is the world I have grown up in: a post-Columbine world. A world where, as each year goes to the next, more students die under gun violence in their own schools. So when I read the email about the closure I wasn’t particularly stunned, as awful as that sounds. This is the new normal.

Just a few days ago, I had many friends in south Denver who spent most of their school day on lock-down because there was an active shooter at the STEM School Highlands Ranch. One student died, and eight more were injured.

Students should feel safe in schools, not paranoid that they could go on lockdown at any moment and that even in that lockdown, they are equivalent to sitting ducks. We prepare and practice and prepare and practice again and again for active shooter situations because we have no other options- lawmakers refuse to turn their backs on the NRA and try and introduce and implement gun reform. When a lawmaker or person in a position of political power attempts to introduce these ideas to keep children safe, they are almost immediately pressured by the NRA to back down. These people prioritize having a gun over children’s lives. They prioritize their outdated 2nd Amendment Rights over a person’s right to live and feel safe in school.

protest signs

Courtesy of March for Our Lives

Ever since the deadly school shooting at Columbine High School on April 20 of 1999, over 228,000 students have experienced gun violence at 234 schools.

 

At least 144 students and staff have been murdered, with 302 more injured. 234 school shootings total. This is only counting incidents that occurred during school hours. Let that sink in. The median age of these school shooters is 16 years old. These students are killed and injured by their own peers. Let that sink in. 16-year-olds killing other children. 16-year-olds with access to weapons that are intended for mass murder. 16-year-olds rampaging schools filled with innocent students while wielding assault rifles. Why do these teenagers even have the ability to obtain and use these kinds of weapons? Shouldn’t there be laws in place making it difficult for an angry 16-year-old to get their hands on an AR-15? In instances where it could be determined, over 85 percent of all school shooters obtained their weapons from friends or family, or just took them out of their own homes. There need to be more protections on who can access guns.

A 12-year-old girl with a semi-automatic handgun in her backpack in Los Angeles. Zero killed, five injured. A 17-year-old boy wielding both a shotgun and a revolver in Santa Fe, Texas. Ten dead, thirteen more injured. A 13-year-old boy with two handguns in Indiana. Zero dead, two wounded. A 15-year-old boy with a handgun in Kentucky. Two dead, eighteen wounded. The list goes on and on, and these examples are just four out of seventeen from 2018 alone.

A 6-year-old boy who killed a girl in his class after saying that he didn’t like her.

 

Everyone is affected by events such as this, and it really does change everything. For one thing, the relationships between teachers and students are forever altered: not only have they all been through such a terrible experience together but now the teachers have the thought in the back of their mind that one of the kids they’re teaching could turn around one day and kill them. Teachers and students alike suffer major PTSD from school shootings. The communities surrounding the area of a school shooting are forever scarred- people see shootings on the news, but they never think it will happen in their own town or city. These school shootings take away the sense of safety that a community once had. They take away its innocence. The media focuses on the city or town, maybe create a hashtag, but then a few weeks pass and the news moves on to something else, leaving a grieving community in its wake.

There are many things that need to happen in order for schools to be safe again. Different schools have all thought of their own reforms and ideas, but the results aren’t showing an impact. Forcing students to wear clear backpacks, implementing school-wide I.D. policies, even arming teachers with “buckets of rocks,” are a few of these ideas. Some people in the federal government have even suggested arming teachers with guns, even though two out of the seventeen school shootings from just 2018 were done by teachers. Trying to fix a gun problem with more guns doesn’t sound like an effective solution. Remember hearing the classic ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’? Well, two guns don’t save a life, and may even inflict more deaths upon innocent children.

In order to actually help keep students and staff safe, overall gun reform needs to be put in place. Background checks for people buying guns need to be stricter and more enforced. If parents own guns and keep them in the house, they need to keep their guns out of sight and out of reach from any of their children. There is no reason for any civilian to own an assault rifle, which is literally defined as “a rapid-fire, magazine-fed automatic rifle designed for infantry use”. No student should ever have to choose between their survival and an education.

Change needs to be made. Not tomorrow, not next week, not next year. Today.

 

Thankfully, there are many teenagers across the country who have decided to take this matter into their own hands, and there are many ways to get involved. The survivors of the Parkland shooting of February 14, 2018 started the March for Our Lives movement with the sole purpose “To harness the power of young people across the country to fight for sensible gun violence prevention policies that save lives.” They organized the largest single day protest against gun violence in history, they help register young people to vote, and have chapters all across the country. It is truly the future generations of leaders that give me and my friends and family hope for the future. They aren’t afraid to fight for what they believe in, and neither am I.


If you have any questions for Macy, email curious@culturesofdignity.com