Why Students Need to Care About Gun Violence

Katherine McGee speaks to a crowd of students on April 20, all gathered to join the movement of high schools standing up to gun violence. (Photo used with permission of Mariana Herrera)

On April 20, 2018, a large group of students at Leesville left their second period classes to walk out in support of the fight against gun violence at school. Before the walk out, there was a mass shooting in February that became one of the deadliest school shootings to ever happen. Now in November, the number of gun-related injuries on school campuses has only increased and will continue — unless something is done about it.

In North Carolina, a person can obtain a firearm at the age of 18, but must be at least 21 to apply for a concealed carry permit. It’s also required to perform a background check in order to prevent a firearm from going into the wrong hands. However, private sellers and gun shows don’t always follow these precautions, and often sell firearms without any specific checks or checks that aren’t thorough enough. These blind eyes ultimately lead to unfit owners of firearms, putting students in danger.

In the instance of a freshman shooting a sophomore in North Carolina on October 30, the student happened to take the gun from a nearby county. He was able to conceal it in the woods before using it to kill his classmate; it is unknown where exactly he got the weapon from. In regards to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in February of this year, 19 year-old Nikolas Jacob Cruz was able to buy a semi-automatic AR-15 style rifle from a private seller, passing a background check that should have brought up a lot of red flags. The specifics that are looked for in a background check reveal a very narrow window into someone’s life, not a complete picture. This was the case for Cruz, for he was able to purchase a weapon even though he presented many disturbing qualities — most portrayed on his different social medias.

Background checks are only required by law in regards to a deal with a licensed dealer. Unlicensed dealers such as private citizens and some gun shows let people buy guns without any thorough safety precautions.

These loopholes are what puts this country in danger of destroying itself; they’ve essentially put a target on our backs as students. We are in danger unless something changes. We as a community need to band together so we don’t become another statistic — another school that was ripped to shreds by someone who shouldn’t have that power in the first place. We should feel lucky that Leesville has been untouched so far, but now it’s time to make sure it never will be.  

After the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting in February, governors in states such as Rhode Island, California, and Indiana have passed laws that allow firearms to be taken away from the owner if they pose a risk to themselves or others. In Washington state, lawmakers are pushing for a ban on bump stocks, which increase the firing speed of semi-automatic firearms. Here in North Carolina however, while many are speaking out and advocating for better gun reform, not much has been put to action quite yet. There is still hope though — protests, petitions, even contacting senators, representatives, and our governor would make an impact.

The youth in North Carolina have a voice; a voice that can dramatically change our future, and our safety. It’s time to use this voice to protect not only ourselves, but this country as a whole.

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