On Feb. 14, 17 students were murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.
Suspect Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old man who had been expelled from the school, was arrested following the event. He is being held without bond as he awaits trial on 17 counts of premeditated murder.
The news of any event as tragic as this undoubtedly makes us feel emotion, but this terrible and nonsensical incident hit me particularly hard.
A few weeks ago, I learned I was accepted to Teach for America’s 2019 corps. This means that following my graduation from Gannon, I will have a classroom of my own somewhere in the United States where I am tasked with engaging and educating some of the next generation.
Because of Wednesday’s events, I have spent the past week contemplating what I would have done if this would have happened in my future school district.
Growing up in a rural town, I spent a majority of my childhood around firearms.
I went hunting with my father as a child, passed my hunter safety course the year I was permitted to do so and still continue to target shoot with my brother when I go home over breaks.
I have seen what responsible gun ownership looks like, but it is clear that this is a privilege not many get to experience.
As I tried to find an escape from this internal debate via the world of social media, I realized that this would not work. Gun control seemed to be a hot topic on accounts from Gannon students to politicians.
Amid the virtual chaos, the voices of one particular group stood out as particularly strong to me: the students who had survived the event.
Those who were in the school when the shooting occurred began posting videos of the scenes they had encountered, and photos of their classmates began to flood timelines.
As journalists began their interviews, students voiced disappointment at lost opportunities for prevention.
In one video from CNN, student David Hogg gives a call to action. “We’re children. You guys are the adults,” he said.
“You need to take some action and play a role. Work together, come over your politics and get something done.”
Cruz was not old enough to purchase a beer, yet he legally purchased an assault rifle.
He was expelled from the school due to violence, had an extensive record of mental health treatment and was previously reported to the FBI after making a claim on YouTube that he wanted to become a school shooter.
I am deeply saddened that we let this young man slip through the cracks.
How do we prevent events like this from happening while still guaranteeing the American right to the Second Amendment? I don’t know.
What I am sure of, however, is that a conversation must be started. We cannot sit and wait for this problem to fix itself.
We must first start by guaranteeing that not one single student feels helpless within America’s classrooms.
Simultaneously, we must ensure that guns do not arrive in the hands of those who cannot responsibly use them.
There are already too many barriers to educational equity in this nation. Let’s not let gun violence add to that list.