30 bullets in a round: that is the capacity for the semi-automatic AR-15 rifle which was legally purchased by the 19 year old Parkland shooter a full year before it was used to destroy 17 lives, 17 families, 17 groups of friends, 17 sisters, mothers, fathers, brothers, and so many more people than 17. The Smith and Wesson weapon’s uses are quoted as “Competition Shooting, Home Protection, Hunting, and Law Enforcement & Military.” This weapon can fire off continuous rounds of ammunition before reloading; it is described as “easy to accessorize, but hard to put down. [They] are lightweight and rugged embodying the best combination of function and form.” The sale of guns has been commercialized to the level of the sale of a kid’s toy. A weapon with the power to kill should not be described as “hard to put down” as if they were describing the newest Barbie doll.
The shooter was able to purchase the weapon at the age of 18. Three years before he could legally purchase alcohol. He was known to have previous anger-management and mental health issues, yet lackadaisical background checks allowed this teenager to purchase the semi-automatic murder weapon.
A popular argument is “guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” When I first heard that, it seemed logical, but upon reflecting further and listening to Emma Gonzalez, a student at Stoneman Douglas, I realized that this could have been a very different story had the shooter only had access to a knife. Authorities would have been able to detain him sooner. He would not have been able to recklessly sputter out bullets while simultaneously putting money in the NRA’s pockets.
A lot of my close family lives in Texas. In fact, just a few days ago, they emailed my dad a picture of them with a huge hog after a successful hunting trip. I am not against the second amendment and one’s right to bear arms. What I am against, however, is how out of context the American people have taken that amendment for today’s usage. In 1791, there were muskets and pistols that could fire about three effective rounds per minute. Now we are talking 30 [rounds], in a matter of seconds.
Some of you may be thinking, “I don’t see how I connect. I go to Head-Royce, a well-protected and safe school, I just don’t see this happening to me.” But the sad truth is, no one could see this coming. If you had asked the students a month before the shooting if they would have to hide away from windows, guard themselves from bullets with thick textbooks, and witness their peers and teachers bleed out in front of them on Valentine’s Day, they would all look at you in disbelief. Yet you still might be thinking, “well California has stricter gun laws than Florida.” While true, strict gun laws do not stop countless shooters every day up and down the West Coast. So for those of you who try to distance yourself from this issue – maybe because if you really thought about it, it would be too painful – I would encourage you to think what we have in common with the kids in Florida: we are all students.
We are all students who wake up early every morning to rush to the bus, who are up way too late working on homework, and who complain about how jam-packed their week is. We are all students who shouldn’t have to question their safety at a sacred space for learning. We are all students who shouldn’t have to have teachers carrying around guns as protection. The brave students of Stoneman Douglas High School have been able to add momentum to the long running gun control conversation, and I’m sure many of us have been a part of history class debates on gun control, but now, more than ever, it can no longer be a conversation.
This is not a one-off. This is not an issue you can talk about in History class and then dismiss until it is brought up again. For me, this feels like a personal attack that does not end today. For me, it does not end until semi-automatic weapons are banned, the gun purchasing age is raised to 21, background checks are re-vamped, and mental health is monitored closer especially during the high school years.
There are so many emotions that I have felt since February 14th: shock, anger, disbelief, denial, frustration, sadness. There are so many more things I wanted to talk about. However, for the sake of being relatively brief and letting other voices speak their opinions, I will end here. I wish I could say more, but mostly I wish the 17 victims could say more. Those 17 lives were not done making their impact: Alyssa, Scott, Martin, Nick, Aaron, Jaime, Chris, Luke, Cara, Gina, Joaquin, Alaina, Meadow, Helena, Alex, Carmen, and Peter. They were silenced.