Should We Be Scared?

By Mars Gifford, Staff Writer

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I was walking back from the village after a club meeting with my friend, Eliesha Penaflor, when we heard a loud noise. I paused, ready to grab her hand and run. I heard her sharp intake of breath. Then we continued walking, everything was fine. Penaflor has only been a student at Quartz Hill High School for two years because she travels back and forth from the Philippines and the United States. Her hometown, Zamboanga City, survived multiple terrorist attacks and a large military conflict in 2013, but the violence there was directed towards the government, not citizens. Here in the United States, anyone can be a target by simply going to school, church, a synagogue, the movie or a concert. Penaflor said she is, “always vigilant because gun violence can occur anytime at school,” knowing that, “violence can occur anytime and anywhere.” This, unfortunately, is a common perspective of many high school students today.

Derrick Rossmango, a senior, recalls a similar experience last year in which he only remembers the feeling of fear after mistaking a loud noise for a gunshot at school. This fear should have no place in our schools and in our country, and yet, gun violence remains a serious and prevalent issue.

I originally wrote this paragraph filled with statistics and calls for action, but after the events of this past Saturday, October 27, 2018, it felt too impersonal. Someone with access to three handguns and an AR-15, the same semi-automatic assault style rifle used in Parkland, Las Vegas, Aurora, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, Sutherland Springs, Newtown, and Orlando, among many other places, took the lives of eleven individuals. Now, their names are being said across the country, and their lives are being honored and remembered; however, in a couple of weeks, they will be reduced to simply “Pittsburgh,” as has happened to all the other victims of mass shootings in America.

The problem is not just mass shootings though. University of Utah student Lauren McCluskey was shot and killed by an ex-boyfriend on October 22. Maurice E. Stallard and Vicki Lee Jones were shot and killed on October 24 in a grocery store. Jatwan Cuffie, a student at Butler High School, was shot and killed at school on October 29. No classes were canceled. Incidents like these happen every day in America, and yet little has changed. Students remain fearful in their schools. Places of worship become battlegrounds. Work places are under attack. As a seventeen year-old high school student, I do not know how to fix this, but I can tell you where to start. Stop making common sense gun reform a partisan issue. Instead, focus on the safety all Americans by reducing access to firearms. Start by promoting a culture of responsible gun ownership and normalizing/requiring classes on gun safety. Start by not allowing sex offenders to purchase firearms. Start by eliminating the gun show loophole and requiring universal background checks. Start by providing comprehensive mental health services. Start by stopping fear.

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