North Texas teacher holding sign that reads “Book bags, not body bags” while peacefully protesting at March For Our Lives in Denton, Texas on March 24th, 2018. Photo By Heather Mount.

There have been 261 days, 22 school shootings, and at least six dead since 2019 began. Why is that? “Parents should not have to worry about their students when they send them off to school,” said Governor Roy Cooper to reporters in May. Starting at kindergarten, children perform drills in preparation for threats, more commonly, school shootings. This is the world our children are growing up in. With an increase of shootings over the past ten years (according to CNN) spreading throughout the nation, the question should not be whether who is next, but rather, what are we doing to make sure there is no “next.”

Currently, firearms such as shotguns and rifles are available to 18 year olds in the U.S. through federal law. The Stoneman Douglas High School shooting was one of the largest school shootings this nation has witnessed and was also, sadly, not the last. The gunman was a 19 year old who bought an AR-15 semiautomatic assault rifle legally at a local supply shop. Since then, there have also been cases of minors who cannot legally obtain a firearm who have carried out shootings simply because the firearm was not locked up. In only a few states is it required that firearms be in a safe, which means those capable of committing shootings have the means to do it through that access and through our country’s lack of restrictive laws. 

This is not an attempt at taking away your firearms. This is an attempt of preventing lives from being lost. There are people who believe these debates lead straight to “we’re taking away your guns.” Many recognize what use they are to people and understand why people would want to own them. There is a way for responsible gun owners to keep them and prevent shootings from occuring. Restrictive laws that would require background checks and keeping guns in a safe would assure that they are in safe hands. However, we need the uproar against banning guns to be as loud as the disapproval that children are being killed at school. 

Within Franklin High School, there are preventive measures taken to help ensure that, hopefully, our school is not the next target. As many students who previously attended FHS noticed, security has become stricter this year. Although through a teenager’s eyes, it can be irritating, it is not because the security guards are trying to be antagonistic. It is because they are trying to protect students and staff. This year, you may have met one particular security guard, maybe he even complimented your hair or told you to have a nice day. Through conversation, I learned this was his tactic to keep us safe, by getting to know us. After having spent time in Philadelphia on UCD, a bike unit, Jason Giles is, as he described himself, “always prepared, or alert. I’m always on survival mode.” Franklin has had averted threats before, the police filter through hundreds and find them not credible. Only some reach students’ knowledge, the ones that could be true, yet none have actually occurred because of strategies being used. Even the ones where the friendly security guard compliments your hair.

The debate on guns has been going on for years. Do we take them away? Do we restrict them? Do we arm teachers? One of the issues with arming teachers is, even school security struggle with gun violence when the situation arises. An example being that shooters avoid security, so it usually takes the gun being fired for security to respond. Now, give a teacher a gun, a classroom full of students, and the pressure of having to take down a school shooter without someone getting caught in the crossfire. It’s been a struggle for our government to come up with a solution, but what we do know is that since they are taking so long to come up with one, children are still going to school in fear that they’ll be on the news next. In reality, many are preparing themselves because they don’t think any resolution will be made soon. Dan Hodges, a British political commentator, said, “In retrospect, Sandy Hook marked the end of the U.S. gun-control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable it was over” in response to the shooting that occured at University of North Carolina, killing two. For the political figures trying to take action, not enough side with them, meaning they can’t get voted into a position with the power to make change. The outrage about these shootings is growing. 

Every month there are lockdown drills, and many schools have security. We are learning math, science, English, but we are also learning what to do if we are ever targeted by a school shooter. Some stores sell bulletproof backpacks, some teachers have bricks at the ready, just in case it’s not a drill. Even students are preparing themselves, and some actually became the person who saved lives by stopping the shooter. It was just at the expense of their own lives. This is this generation’s new norm, where gut wrenching newsletters from the New York Times read, “But their parents didn’t want martyrs; they wanted children and grandchildren. And it is appalling that we as a society have abandoned American kids so that they must die to save their classmates.” These deaths aren’t inevitable. So, the question for our government and for ourselves is, what’s next?