[TW: This article discusses gun violence and school shootings.]
On Nov. 30, 2021, a 15-year-old high school sophomore killed four students and wounded several others in a mass shooting at Oxford High School near Detroit, Michigan. The alleged perpetrator of the crime, Ethan Crumbley, now faces 24 charges as an adult. Similarly, his parents were charged with involuntary manslaughter for their role in the shooting, namely because they failed to secure the gun Crumbley used.
Living in the 21st century as a young adult, headlines such as these make it almost easy to become tone-deaf to the epidemic of gun violence. Incidents such as these, especially in school, are practically commonplace, a deadly routine of sorts (New York Times, 2021). Every time an incident such as the Oxford school shooting occurs, the immediate societal response is to pray for and remember the victims but never to actually address the deeper problem: America’s deadly fascination with guns. Although recent years have brought a wave of movements geared towards ending gun violence, many of these motivated by students themselves, there has been a lack of legislative change which concretely accomplishes these goals.
America, being as gun-friendly as it is compared with other countries, has a history of gun violence and pro-gun sentimentality that is still ongoing. After all, the right to bear arms is in the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: “[T]he right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” (Cornell Legal Information Institute). This sentiment led to widespread ownership of guns nationwide, with the United States having four percent of the world’s population but 40 percent of the world’s civilian-owned guns. Guns and America estimates that there are 393 million civilian-owned firearms in the country, which puts the United States at number one in terms of weapons per capita (Guns and America, 2020). Additionally, gun violence kills about 100 people and injures another 200 daily in the United States (Everytown, 2021).
Given this country’s widespread ownership of and fascination with guns, it is no surprise that the number of school shootings has increased since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999 (Washington Post, 2021). However, this increase in gun violence unfortunately leads to the American public’s desensitization of violence, which then causes further inaction on the matter, both legally and societally. It is absolutely appalling that as American children die, politicians sit by and are too scared to question the constitutional law for fear that they will be reprimanded electorally. School should be a place of safety, security and education for children, not a place where they need to fear for their lives. No child should ever have to participate in another lockdown or active shooter drill because these incidents should not exist .
The only way to do this is through activism, specifically by students themselves. Students are the population most affected by gun violence in schools, and their voices are the most convincing when it comes to demonstrating how important firearms laws are to protecting their lives. Although it may seem that after years and years of school shootings it would be hard to sway any politician’s mind on the position of gun legislation, politicians work to serve us, not vice versa. If America’s gun problem is not addressed soon, this will become a problem that no lawmaker or legislation can handle.
In the wake of the 2018 Parkland, Fla. school shooting, protests were a promising start to increase anti-gun activism in the United States. In recent years, there have been some bills passed in the House that show promise, namely the 2019 legislation that proposes required background checks for commercial and private firearms sales (Ballot Pedia, 2019). Although this legislation did not pass the Senate, it was a good start. But this is not enough when it comes to preventing gun violence. For models that successfully demonstrate how gun control can eliminate most gun violence, America should look to other countries, such as Japan. Japan has an almost non-existent gun crime rate of 0.02 out of 100,000 people, and this is mostly thanks to the stringent laws and regulations surrounding gun acquisition in the country, including a gun safety class, written test, shooting test, mental health evaluation, drug test and background check (World Population Review, 2021). After all this, the only type of guns that Japanese citizens are able to own are shotguns and air rifles. They are further prohibited from owning handguns or automatic weapons that may harm other people seriously.
Education is paramount to America’s future, education is seriously impeded when children fear for their life in school. School should be a place of education, and not a place where students must gamble their lives in order to be educated. No child in this nation should go to school fearing for their life, wondering whether they will come back home. The past few years of hearing about gun violence in schools has desensitized us to the truly horrific state of gun control in our country. We cannot accept this as the state of our world anymore. Politicians must be held accountable and advocacy must come from the group that is most susceptible to gun violence in schools: students.