Growing Up With Gun Violence

Kate Rogers, Opinions Editor

Ever since I was little, I’ve been aware of guns. I come from a family of hunters, so guns and, more importantly, gun safety is nothing new to me. But I was also aware of how dangerous a firearm can be, especially in the hands of someone who wants to cause harm. I was taught that guns are for protection and survival and should only ever be used when needed. But self-defense and hunting firearms are drastically different from military-grade AR weapons, designed for “quick and efficient killing” (bradyunited.com). The problem is that any random civilian over 18 can purchase a semi-automatic or automatic firearm with little to no prerequisites.
Over 1 million Americans have been killed in the last decade by gun violence, and numbers are rising faster than ever. Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence says that, in Arizona, someone dies from a gun every eight hours (giffords.org). According to the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, in 2022 alone, there have been 95 incidents of gun firing on school grounds, causing 41 deaths and 79 injuries nationally, and that’s just in the first two-thirds of the year (everytownresearch.org). When it comes to how often American children are exposed to gun violence, gunfire at schools is just the beginning; Everytown reports that “every year, more than 3,500 children and teens are shot and killed, and 15,000 more are shot and injured” (everytownresearch.org). Most recently, a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, left 19 elementary-aged students and teachers dead. Even as shooting numbers rise, it feels to me like nothing is changing.
Intruder and lockdown drills are practiced in every school in the country, training kids as young as three to be ready in the event of an active shooter. We lock doors, require gates to be closed, insist on mandatory school IDs for every student, and practice for the worst-case scenario instead of addressing the problem of guns being far too easy to get. Teachers are expected to defend their kids, even if it means using themselves as a human shield. According to Everytown, 17 states currently allow teachers or school staff to be armed in the classroom under varying conditions as a further precaution and protective measure in the event of a shooter. Instead of getting to the root of the problem and increasing the criteria needed to get a gun, the government would rather avoid the heart of the problem, placing bandaids over literal bullet wounds.
Guns are far too easy to get in America. According to Cassidy Johncox, “Many states have added restrictions and regulations that may require additional background checks or waiting periods. But, for the most part, Americans can typically purchase a gun within hours” (clickondetriot.com). In addition, under federal law, Americans are not required to undergo a background check when purchasing a firearm from a private seller. This means that in many states, anyone over 18 can quickly obtain a gun within the day. While laws differ between states, Arizona has some of the laxest gun laws in the country. For example, Arizona does not require gun owners to have a permit, undergo a background check, or register a gun purchased from a private individual. Strengthening gun control laws on the federal level would limit the number of people who can get guns and prevent certain types of guns like AR-15 rifles and other assault weapons from being accessible to civilians.
The threat of gun violence has become a part of nearly every student’s life, yet we still do nothing to stop it. Instead, we allow our youth to live in fear every day, saying that the problem isn’t the weapon but the person behind it. While there may be truth to that, it doesn’t negate the blame on our government who allowed that person to get a gun anyway. School shooters, lockdowns, and gun violence are not things children should have to worry about. It is not fair for the priorities of our government to lie not in the education of its youth but in upholding the Second Amendment, an outdated law written hundreds of years ago. I am tired of planning places to hide in every classroom, of jumping at every loud noise from the hall, and I am tired of pretending that my life and the lives of millions of other students around the country are less valuable than someone else’s ability to buy a gun.