I was in high school when the Columbine shooting occurred and though we didn’t have Facebook or Instagram back then, somehow the news filtered through our parent’s TV channels and local papers, illustrating to us, the indestructible teenagers of America, that we do in fact die. It was so shocking to us, so alien of a concept, that I remember girls crying in the hallways and school-wide projects being sent to Columbine to show our solidarity & support.
Columbine for many, was the first wave in a tsunami of school shootings that America has seen since that day. Acts of violence that have become so commonplace, so horrific, that there is not a state in our union which has not been touched by it. In fact, since 1970, the US has had over 1,925 school shootings and in those shootings, over 637 students, teachers & staff lost their lives. Over 600 graduations never celebrated, savings accounts used not for community college classes but for funerals, so many firsts; first car, first kiss, first paycheck, first apartment, first love~stolen.
This is not a reality that my parents had to deal with; at least not really. If there was news of a school shooting, and there were a few before Columbine, it was so far removed from their daily lives, so rare, that it was almost an anomaly. Today though, if I hear sirens on a school day, that is the first thought that flits through my mind. I imagine an unhinged intruder, storming the threshold of my children’s school and the utter chaos that would unfold. I listen, almost subconsciously, for more alarms; for something that would signal a school shooting and when the sirens fade away, as they always have as of yet, I can breathe a sigh of relief. I suppose, having lived over half my life with the horrific reality of almost weekly school shootings, it’s just something that I’ve become accustomed to.
But there was another shooting today, with young children the same age as mine, and things are not so easy to ignore. So tonight, alongside baths and storytime, we told our kids how best to survive a school shooting. Not to be a hero. To not be scared but to be ready, prepared. And I cried, not only for those children lost today so senselessly, but for all the kids growing up in America today who have had to learn, alongside math equations and the ABC’s, that the world is not always a safe place.
People, especially a certain demographic of America, will argue that tired old adage; “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” but I say fuck that. Of course guns don’t walk out the door on a killing spree on their own two powdered coated legs. Guns are inanimate objects you asshole. They cannot do anything without a living, breathing human there to pull the trigger. But what guns do do, and what they have always done, is make it so very easy to take another’s life. It’s barely a reflex, to pull that trigger; it takes more effort to unscrew the lid of a jar. And guess what? Your right to own a gun, that 2nd amendment argument, does not, I repeat, does not supercede my right or my children’s right to live life without the fear of dying by gunshot. It does not override their right to receive an education without bullet holes. This law that people so desperately cling to was written over 300 years ago with bloody quill & ink. 1791 was a long freaking time ago. Over two thirds of our country was still untamed wilderness. There were only 14 states and our democracy was brand new, not only to us but to the world. Guns were useful back then and the right to bear arms could mean the difference between life & death. However, our country has evolved, changed, and morphed into an entirely new world virtually unrecognizable from those first 14 hardscrabble states. There are over 334 million of us Americans and most assuredly, we no longer need guns for daily protection; especially when it is so blatantly apparent that we as a country, are incapable of controlling their use on fellow Americans. It is time to evolve, to move on into the future, a future filled with less violent gun deaths and more life.
Yes today’s shooting in Uvalde, Texas hit me particularly hard. Maybe it’s because I have a 3rd grader who went to school this morning and came home safe this afternoon. Maybe it’s because so many of those lost today remind me so very much of my own brown eyed boys. Or maybe because it’s just time. Time to sit up, to take notice, to change things.