I Remember When I Lost Hope

Annie Rosenthal, Editor

‘What will I do in a school shooting? Where will I hide? I’m too young to die.’

These horrible thought are almost completely foreign to children outside of the United States, yet is one that races through the minds of millions of children each and every time someone slams a door down the hall, pops a chip bag, or drops a hydro flask.

Many people who are graduating high school this year, all remember what it was like when we came home from school on December 14, 2012. Our parents were in shock, crying, or both. It was the day of the Sandy Hook elementary School shooting. Twenty children and six staff had just been shot and killed. I remember it as the last time my mom didn’t say, “I love you,” and hug me, before I left for school. I’m eighteen, and she still does it every morning, no matter what.

On May 14, 2022, 18 year old Payton Gendron traveled over 200 miles to Buffalo, New York and killed 13 people, 11 of whom were black. In his self-written manifesto, he calls himself a white supremacist and a fascist. He had previously undergone a mental evaluation sometime last year after revealing in a high school project that he wanted to commit a murder-suicide. No charges were filed against him at the time, and authorities made no efforts to keep track of him, only finding out after the shooting that he visited Buffalo in March, and the day before the shooting, as well as planning an additional shooting at a second store which he would thankfully never see come to fruition. 

When Gendron went to purchase his weapon, which happened long  after his mental evaluation, no warnings came up. He was allowed to purchase the assault rifle  with absolutely no issue.

The same can be said for Salvador Ramos, who shot and killed 19 children on May 27th, in the worst elementary school shooting since Sandy Hook. He was known to threaten and harass girls online, sending them horribly cruel messages and then backtracking and saying it was a joke. He would send photos of guns and of dead cats, and if girls did not respond in a manner he approved of, he would threaten them with kidnapping and rape. Ramos’ account was reported many times, but remained active as reported by Silvia Foster-Frau, Cat Zakrezwski, Drew Harwell and Naomi Nix.

Every time there is any sort of mass shooting, but especially a school shooting, we hear the same rhetoric: ‘We need common sense gun control, we need mental health counseling and deeper background checks.’ And in response, from the other side, we always hear, ‘Guns don’t kill people, people do! It’s because our country is moving away from God.’

Now, it does not matter which side you agree with most. What matters is that you understand that there is a problem.

Children are dying. It doesn’t matter if you think the cause of shootings is mental health, or a lack of religion, all that matters is that guns are the common denominator. In every mass shooting, their ‘reasoning’ has been different, but they’ve all used guns. So take them away. Plain and simple. Most mass shootings are committed by young, white men (Salvador Ramos is an exception, but he is still a man) under the age of 25, with semi-automatic weapons. There is no reason to have a semi-automatic weapon in America, unless you plan on hurting people with it.

As individuals, we have the responsibility to give up a small amount of our freedom if it is for the safety of our children, family, and neighbors. Think of it as similar to a mask mandate, which was meant to keep everyone safe from COVID.

Pope Francis has called for Ámerica to give up their guns, and while that may be a long while off, if ever, is it really asking so much to give up a semi automatic weapon whose only purpose is to maim and kill?

Because truly, what purpose does that serve in America? And how long will we ask children to take bullets in their algebra and English classes, and continue to pretend that this is normal?

I remember being thirteen years old just after the Parkland shooting, and looking around my packed K-8 school gym for field day, and planning who I would grab if and when a shooter came in, and how I would cover all of them.

I angered my P.E. teacher that day because I kept closing the door which was supposed to be propped open.

I remember my class being angry at our teachers because they thought the Parkland students were overreacting, and threatened to suspend any students who went to the “March for our Lives” event.

I remember when I lost hope.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, which is what lawmakers are doing with us right now. Republican or Democrat, they do not care. They have been watching children die since 1999, and have done nothing about it. So Vote. Vote as often and as much as you can, and encourage others to do the same. It’s the only way we can hope to give future generations fear-free education.