Las Vegas, Nevada: 58 dead, 500+ injured, crowned as the largest mass shooting in modern American history. As an American citizen, I am ashamed. As a teenager, I am afraid. As a person, I want change.
Every day I walk into my high school or go to a music festival or hang out at the mall or movies with friends, there’s a chance of someone pulling out a gun and shooting me. Is it likely? I hope not. Is it possible? Yes, very much so, especially with America’s open carry and assault weapon laws. Small things remind me of this terrible reality, such as practicing “Code Red” drills every few months at school.
Previous generations, listen up. While we don’t have to prepare for a nuclear war yet—(that’s directed at you, Kim Jong-un), we do have something just as scary: Active shooter drills. Before the school year began, the entire faculty and staff at my high school had to role-play with a live shooter in the building hunting them down. The school hired an official to enter the school as the shooter, firing blanks from a real gun and running around the property looking for victims. The teachers had to successfully protect their classrooms by locking the doors, hiding, and following all of the protocol of a Code Red. My assumption (and great hope) is that they passed the live shooter test.
As students, once every few months we have our own code red drills, exempting the live shooter. That is when our teachers tell us to hide the farthest away possible from the window and the door; a blasted loud siren screams from somewhere inside the school to let the guy know, hey, we see you and your gun; doors are locked and lights blinked out; and we all huddle together in a confined space, on edge even with the knowledge that it is just a drill. It’s not fun to practice what you’d do if someone was coming into the building with a gun to blow your brains out.
Our first code red drill of the 2017 school year was not a drill— there was a shooter loose on the forested property behind the school, apparently having just sent a victim to the hospital down the road with 10 gunshot wounds. Doors were locked, lights winked out, and I sat in geometry class, nervously turning my head around every five minutes to take in the large windows behind us, the only barrier between our location on the first floor and the parking lot. It was basically an open season of targets for anyone with half a good aim and a weapon.
Three weeks later, when no one was worried anymore because the threat was diffused and the shooter apprehended, we all woke up to news of Las Vegas. The news headlines wouldn’t stop airing body count numbers, as this was the largest mass shooting in American history. I woke up, heard the news, and wanted to throw myself back into bed like it was a bad dream. The entire day, my classmates and teachers looked on the verge of tears, and I kept asking my parents, Why? What makes someone want to murder people? And why do we allow these people to have assault weapons?
They didn’t really have an answer, except for the answer that has caused a great and brutal chasm of divide in American politics: Gun control. Or the lack of gun control.
As a young person, what am I supposed to do when mass amounts of people are being slaughtered? Am I supposed to just accept that at any moment someone can come into my school with an automatic weapon and kill everyone in the building?
Like a lot of my classmates, I’d very much so appreciate it if we did not have to practice what to do if someone with a weapon breaks into our school. As an American, I am tired of waking up to death tolls and mug-shot style pictures of shooters rotating around the 24-hour news cycle. I don’t want to remember the names of mass murderers. I don’t want our country to mourn, pray, and care for about a month until someone comes along and tops the record number of people they can shoot and kill within minutes. We can pray and think about Las Vegas all we want, but that is not as progressive as rallying around non-violence, weapon safety, and gun control.
I am not saying that it is time for guns to cease to exist. I am not saying that people who hunt, police officers, or even someone with one gun for self-protection need to have their weapons taken away. I am calling for the banning of automatic and assault weapons, the kind of weapons that are purely designed for killing. I am calling for a revision on our open carry laws, as I don’t understand why one needs to have their gun attached to their hip in public. I want stronger background checks and the loops holes of the system to be erased. We need to stop these types of guns from falling into the hands of the mentally ill. Maybe then the Code Red drills will end. Maybe then these mass shootings will stop, or at least lessen.
To conclude, are we really going to keep letting the innocent die to protect our right to bear arms? The 2nd amendment and what it has come to protect in terms of automatic weapons, loose background checks, open carry laws, and mass shootings undermines the slogan of America: A country that protects the life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness of all of its citizens. No one can pursue happiness if they are staring down the barrel of a gun.