I was a senior in high school in 1999 when the Columbine shooting happened. I remember coming home from school and watching the news coverage with my family. We sat and watched for hours as details of the horrific events were revealed in real time. But as horrible as that day was in Colorado almost 20 years ago, it would have been hard to imagine that it was only a type of jumping-off point for mass shootings that would continue through the present.
In the nearly 20 years since the Columbine tragedy, a great deal has changed for me personally and for the country. I am no longer a nieve high school senior eagerly anticipating entering college to prepare for a career in sports medicine. Somewhere along the way I grew up, decided I would become a teacher, and have been attempting to educate students for nearly 15 years. And sadly, the United States is no longer a nation where a school shooting that claims the lives of multiple students and teachers is shocking. I’ve heard some say this is the new normal, the new reality in which we as a nation are forced to live. I’m sorry but I don’t want my reality, my normal, to be a place where I have to wonder if my school, my students, or my friends will be the next victims of a purely senseless act of carnage.
The most important job of any school is to protect the students it serves. I believe that for the most part, schools do an adequate job of providing this protection. But over the past few days, it has become quite apparent to me that our nation is failing to protect the lives of young people. There is plenty of blame to assign, but the one place that blame should never go is to the students who are now attempting to stand up and draw attention to an issue that the adults in their lives have refused to confront.
We will only solve the issue of gun violence in this country when we are able to admit that guns are the problem. The statistics are clear and I need not list them here. America has a gun problem. America has a problem with a minority of people who want to cling to those guns and convince others it is their God-given right to own a machine that was designed for war and has the potential to mow down hallways full of innocent children in a matter of seconds.
Since the shooting in Florida occurred last week, I have been having a difficult time going to school. Never before has a school shooting affected me to the point where I felt differently about doing my job until this most recent event. Perhaps this is because I now have two young children who, with my wife, eagerly await my arrival each day after I return home from school. But I believe it is more than that. Schools and the country are moving so far away from the ideals that I value and I am saddened by that.
I am saddened that I live in a country controlled by people who cite the sanctity of life in controlling a woman’s right to have an abortion while at the same time demanding that nobody’s right to own a machine designed to take multiple lives quickly be infringed upon. I am saddened that I live in a country where one has to be 21 years old to buy a can of beer but can buy a war machine at 18. I cannot understand why a 16-year-old has to go through a 6 month waiting period and pass multiple tests to drive a car but can instantly receive a license to own and fire an AR-15.
Tonight I listened to the president of the United States discuss how arming teachers may be the solution to the epidemic of mass shootings in schools. Many will agree with this position, and I would assume it has a good chance of becoming a reality shortly. But like I previously stated, the nation and schools are moving further and further away from my personal convictions. Schools should have No guns. Teachers should have No guns. Children should have No guns. Nobody should be permitted to own a device designed with the intention of killing massive amounts of people.
This is a sad time to be a teacher and an American. The best interests of millions of children are held hostage by the NRA, fearful politicians, and those who are too afraid to live without the protection of firepower designed for war. If arming teachers is the answer to mass shootings in schools, I should not be a teacher. I am confident that most know that gun control is the solution to this epidemic and can only hope that the majority of people in this country will someday come to this realization. Until then I will remain sad that I have to go to a school where children are afraid and the adults they trust are also too afraid to take the right steps necessary to protect them.