It’s a shocking reality that children and young adults in my generation have been forced to face: Some people in the United States would rather protect guns than the lives of American students.
I myself faced this reality as a freshman in high school. Like many of you, I grew up practicing lockdown drills, hearing politicians profess their love for the NRA and watching communities get torn apart by gun violence. But it wasn’t until the morning of Nov. 14, 2019 that I realized just how serious gun violence actually is in our country — and how quickly I could go from feeling empathetic to traumatized to enraged.
For me, it was eight seconds. A boy — a student — came to my school with his father's .45 caliber ghost gun and opened fire on our quad. In eight seconds he managed to shoot two children, clear a jam, and shoot three more before turning the gun on himself. I was one of those children. I was shot in the lower abdomen and my best friend, 14-year-old Dominic, was shot and killed next to me. I was just 15 years old. This is the life of an American teenager.
After that day, I worked hard to find out who on earth could see these tragedies happen repeatedly and remain complacent. The reality was more painful than my bullet wound: Adults in power care more about the money from the gun lobby than they do about kids.
We cannot afford to wait until we are each personally affected by the physical trauma of gun violence. We may stand arm in arm, and we may cry for our neighboring communities. But what follows tears when guns are the number one killer of children in the United States? Our tears must turn to anger. Our anger must turn to action. Our action must then turn to policy change. We cannot back down until our demands are met.
We live in America. This is the supposed home of the free — but how can we be free if we are dying at our churches, grocery stores, parades, clubs, movie theaters, malls, parks, and schools? Our country can do better. I believe that we can be the America that people run to for safety. We don’t have to continue to live this way — and we certainly don’t have to continue to die this way.
While our bullet wounds — both physical and mental — bleed from this uniquely American problem, we still show up. We lobby Congress, we hold rallies, we attend vigils, and we mourn with our generation. We have made ourselves clear: We have had enough!
We believe that the majority of gun owners and non-gun owners alike want to end gun violence. We refuse to believe this is the status quo, nor that this is the best that America has to offer.
Since the shooting that stole my childhood and my sense of safety, I have witnessed significant change. I’ve seen young people hold walkouts and sit-ins, as well as huge marches organized by March for Our Lives. Last year, Congress passed significant gun safety packages. Students have published op-eds like this one at over one hundred colleges and universities. And campus groups like Brown Students Demand Action are already organizing to combat gun violence.
But we can’t do this alone. Gun violence prevention is everyone’s fight. Don’t wait until you are a statistic like I am. Get involved now — the only experience needed is your love of human life over guns.