As students at Rowland Hall, school is not frightening. We are sheltered in an environment where we know everyone. However, considering the recent school shootings, including the most recent incident at Santa Fe High School in Texas, we should be scared.
Given that the majority of high school students cannot vote, it is the responsibility of voting adults to keep us safe. Yet despite another — and another — mass school shooting, nothing has changed. Students around the country continue to be massacred for the lack of legislative initiative. How many students must die before Congress passes stricter gun policies?
In a recent report, the FBI Criminal Justice Information Services Division found that “16,459 murders were committed in the United States during 2016. Of these, about 11,961 or 73 percent were committed with firearms.” In 2018 alone, there have been 22 school shootings across our country.
Sara Imam, a survivor of the Parkland High School massacre in Florida, called on all eligible voters to exercise their right to vote, and to vote in favor of thorough background checks and stricter gun control “so no parent will ever have to receive the news their child has been shot at school.”
As students who cannot vote in elections this year, we implore Utah voters to only elect legislators willing to take action on gun violence, so no family ever has to receive this call.
Guns are deadly, particularly when in the wrong hands. The Parkland shooting news shocked many because, despite 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz’s “accumulated … list of disciplinary problems and mental health concerns,” he legally purchased the firearm that he used to massacre 17 people.
Shouldn’t the process of purchasing a firearm be at least as difficult as getting a passport or travel visa? Shouldn’t prospective gun owners have to demonstrate psychological well-being and have no history of threatening behavior? Students should be able to count on government processes to ensure that guns do not legally end up in the hands of criminals and mentally ill people. Current laws betray students; we should not have to risk our lives to get an education.
Congress has considered legislation on more thorough background checks. A survey of Americans demonstrated support for this, and for prohibiting felons, substance abusers and those with mental illness or a history of domestic violence from purchasing guns. Unfortunately, despite the outrage from the American people, expanded background checks have never become law, due to lack of political will and undue pressure from the firearm industry. Mass shootings have become routine. Our children cannot live in safety without necessary legislative changes.
Another strategy to reduce the number of deaths by firearms is to limit the types of guns available for purchase to the public. Semi-automatic weapons used by military personnel and assault rifles that hold large amounts of ammunition and produce shots rapidly should not be sold to civilians. These guns are excessive and unnecessary for sport shooting and self-defense. Despite this, it is legal to purchase and sell military-style and assault weapons in most states, including Utah.
The Second Amendment is an important constitutional right. However, limiting the sale of assault rifles does not infringe on the rights of law-abiding gun owners. Supporters of gun control gained a minor victory when Dick’s Sporting Goods stores announced that they have ceased selling assault rifles, defying the National Rifle Association. It is unfortunate that the public marketplace is more interested than Congress in taking responsibility on this issue.
Changes like these are the next steps toward safer schools and communities. As students, we call on adults to go to the polls in November and make our schools places of innovation rather than fear, by voting for candidates who support these policies. After all, we can’t vote ourselves … yet.
Scott Bocock and Grace Macintyre are in 12th and 11th grade at Rowland Hall. They wrote this piece as part of a civic engagement project with Alliance for a Better Utah.