By Alannah Balfour
Samantha Fuentes is an 18-year-old girl with mid-length dark hair and a bullet’s shrapnel forever lodged beneath her cheek and eye. She is one of the survivors who will not be returning to Stoneman Douglas High after the shooting on Feb. 14. She joins high school students across the nation who are leading protests for safer schools and increased “common-sense” gun control regulations. Their demands include increased security and bulletproof windows as well as a ban on assault-style weapons, stronger background checks, waiting periods for gun buyers and increasing the minimum age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21. Our current relatively unregulated laws are absurd and dangerous. Roughly one-third of gun owners purchase their weapons at gun shows, which have even less regulation: just show cash — no character reference, no psychological test and no training required. Why is it so difficult to change this policy? After the 2012 fatal shooting of 20 first-graders at Sandy Hook Elementary, we should have woken up. There is no doubt that the United States has a prominent gun culture. No one will take away the right to own guns for self-protection or legal sports hunting, because American voters will not let that happen.
We, like the Florida students, have grown up in a time of lockdowns. When I walk into a room that has minimal exits, I imagine what would happen if a gunman came through the front door. Teachers are constantly given new guidance as to the best methods of protecting students. When shots rang out in that Florida school hallway last month, students and teachers alike knew the best course of action to take. All of these proposed adjustments — increased security and financial bonuses for armed teachers — are accepting attacks on schoolchildren as a commonplace reality. The gun control argument counteracts this acceptance. It is not saying that laws will erase all violent crime; however, it will minimize it.
These high school students are not to be taken lightly. The movement is rapidly stretching across the nation, where thousands of students are walking out of class and organizing rallies at state buildings. They are addressing political leaders with emotional speeches, declaring that in refusing to change gun laws we have failed children — the part of society we are most obliged to protect.
If you are interested in supporting those affected by gun violence through enacting stricter gun laws, there are a steps that can be taken. Call your members of Congress, and get involved with local gun reform groups. Those few years between us and those high school students allow us voting power. We have to use it.