Terror in Our High Schools

k12 or ar15
Illustration by Minh Nguyen.

Students Speak Out Against Gun Violence

By Matthew Strickland

School is not as wholesome as it once was. Mass shootings in educational institutions across the United States are leaving students feeling scared. In light of the recent incident in Parkland, Fla., young people are speaking out, and they are doing so with poise. Students claim that not enough has been done to curb gun violence and prevent mass shootings. On the other hand, conservatives take the stance that gun ownership is a constitutional right that must be preserved at all costs. Amidst this debate, we must ask ourselves the following: what do Americans sacrifice for the right to own guns and who pays the price?

The BCC Voice conducted a seven-question survey to uncover Berkeley High School students’ thoughts and feelings about gun violence. Generation Z is standing up. They are asking to be heard and they are demanding that something finally be done to ensure that they receive an education without fear of being gunned down.

The survey responses indicated that Berkeley High students are feeling fearful and uncomfortable. Several students reported that they are angry at the government for its legislative inaction. They expressed irritation and seemed perplexed by the absence of real solutions. At least one student stated that they hated the shootings, and many expressed regret that students like themselves are being killed.

Sophomore Sarah Garcia* said that “[School shootings] could be prevented if we had proper gun control.” Another student, Anita Jones, stated, “I think school shootings have a negative impact on community.” James Stewart, grade 12, shared, “The problem is not as big as people say it is.” Despite some instances of dissent, students tended to agree that the increased frequency of school violence in recent years is unsettling.

When asked if they were scared to go to school, students’ answers were split. Joe Pizzano explained that high schoolers are used to shootings since, “They have been happening as long as we have been going to school.” “Hell yes, I’m afraid to go to school,” another student responded. Naomi Hill made the comment, “I am not scared to go to school, but I feel paranoid.”

The feeling that safety was not guaranteed on campus came up more than once. “Sometimes I am afraid to go to school”, Jones confessed. Garcia feels that, “Even a door opening can be scary,” and Lin Nguyen admits, “Yes, I am scared to go to school. I don’t feel safe.”

Considering these responses, it might come as no surprise that eight out of the ten students surveyed had participated in the March 2018 school walkout to protest gun violence. There is real solidarity among students on this issue, and they are willing to take action to make a statement.

The students surveyed were quite vocal about how they will vote when they are able. Garcia pronounced, “I will vote for stricter gun control laws, more rigorous background checks and a ban on assault rifles.” While Tammy Belhart said, “We need to make [gun control] laws more restrictive and guns harder to get.” Allen Williams, who is 18, said, “I will vote for common sense in gun control and I contact my representatives frequently.”

If these students are representative of their group of peers as a whole, Generation Z will be a force to contend with when they get the chance to cast their ballots and influence legislation.

The final question of the survey was: “Have incidents of gun violence affected the way you live?” In response, Williams said, “It does not affect me, but I see it affect others.” Jones stated, “I feel less safe.” Nguyen has “lost people to gun violence.” Janine Gray shared “[Gun violence] has affected my community, but not me personally.” Hill recognized an experiential divide within the issue. She said that she is “not really changed by gun violence in schools, because [she] is African American and is always on alert.”

Berkeley High students defiantly support the “Never Again” movement, a nationwide campaign launched by the student survivors of the Parkland shooting that aims to push back against the NRA and lobby for gun reform in Washington. It is clear from these survey responses that students are no longer willing to tolerate inaction and denial from legislators. Young adults from across the nation are speaking with a common voice. They are calling for change. They are showing the older generations that they mean business and they believe in the cause. The change is going to happen, and Generation Z will be leading the movement.

*The BCC Voice has changed the names of survey participants in order to protect their privacy as minors.

At the top: “k12 or ar15?” by Minh Nguyen. Minh Nguyen is a student and a psychiatrist. He lives with his parents and enjoys watercolors and digital painting. He hopes his work makes us hate each other/ourselves a little less. He currently has a bad case of poison oak.

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