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“Our Thoughts and Prayers Are With You”

Even though the official school year for seniors has come to an end, I still feel as though I have a duty to write about the Uvalde school shooting that took place on Tuesday, May 26. It is now officially the second most deadly K-12 school shooting in American history, after Sandy Hook. Robb Elementary School, where 19 students and two teachers were killed, had two days left in  their school year. BHS has a little over two weeks to go before summer break. The end of every year feels like an escape from the possibility of a school shooting, but Robb Elementary could not escape. 

Hearing the news enraged me, because those who run our government continue to be hypocritical. The same politicians who claim they are “pro-life” are the ones who refuse to pass common sense gun control. Being pro-life cannot end at preventing women from having control over their own bodies. One cannot be inherently pro-life while simultaneously disregarding necessary protections for Americans during pregnancy and after children are born. No one is pro-life if they refuse to enact measures to protect Americans. 

It is not only students who are the victims of gun violence, it’s people living their normal lives, like those who were recently killed in a shooting that took place at a grocery store in Buffalo on May 14. That’s where a racially motivated gunman killed 10 people; or, at the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California on May 15th, where a politically motivated shooting happened. These are just three examples of the 213 mass shootings recorded this year by the Gun Violence Archive

Walking into school the day after a school shooting brings anxiety. The Uvalde shooting is said to have taken place in one fourth-grade classroom where the suspect, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, barricaded himself. The thought of 11 and 12 year-old children hiding in a classroom with virtually no escape from an active shooter is almost impossible to comprehend. The two teachers who were in the room were responsible for protecting the lives of innocent children with no way out. It is completely unfair to expect teachers to put their lives on the line for students, yet again and again they sacrifice themselves. It is not their job to protect these children, it is the legislators who have the ability to enact laws to take care of Americans. 

The answer is not to introduce armed guards outside of schools or to train teachers how to use a gun in the event of an attack. In fact, the gunman in Uvalde stormed past an armed guard at the school before entering. Then, two Uvalde police officers arrived after the shooter crashed his truck into the school, and both were shot by him. The answer is a combination of mental health care accessibility and common sense gun laws. In most mass shootings, the killer has previously shown signs of being mentally ill but still somehow finds access to a gun, which is frequently done legally. Although in the most recent Texas case, the suspected shooter’s mental state has not been shared, it seems highly likely that he was unwell. However, we may never truly know because he was killed by a Border Patrol officer during the shooting. 

And even if someone did know that he was mentally ill, that might not help either.  New York has a Red Flag Law in place where family members, friends, or others can file to a judge to flag a person who wants to purchase a firearm, preventing them from doing so. Teachers at the school where suspected Buffalo shooter Peyton Gendron went reported him under this law after he wrote about wanting to carry out a mass shooting in a school assignment. Like many others, he slipped through the cracks, was able to legally access a gun, and killed ten people. Similarly, Salvador Ramos, who recently turned 18, legally bought two semi-automatic rifles before carrying out the Uvalde mass shooting. Texas Governor Greg Abbott stated that Ramos had posted on Facebook prior to the shooting that he was “going to shoot an elementary school.”  

As press conferences take place, we hear the recurring message that our politicians’ thoughts and prayers are with the Uvalde community, including the Governor of TX, Greg Abbott, and President Biden. Thoughts and prayers do not protect American children. Making sure that people get mental health care, that they are flagged and unable to obtain guns when they show signs of violence and mental illness, and enacting common sense gun laws are what prevents shootings like the one that took place in Uvalde. It is infuriating to hear legislators act as though they care and then turn around and prevent gun laws from being enacted. 

It is the responsibility of Americans to become single-issue voters if they are passionate about keeping children alive, and to actually show up at the polls and vote. It is the responsibility of lawmakers in this country to take initiative and finally pass laws that will prevent shootings. It is the responsibility of businesses and politicians to stop taking money from lobbying groups like the NRA. Our lawmakers consistently let the American people down when it comes to gun safety. When 20 children were killed in the Sandy Hook shooting a decade ago, the government failed to take initiative to protect American children and allowed the assault weapons ban to expire. They have yet to take a stand to protect them since. 

The NRA’s Annual Meeting is scheduled to take place from May 27-29 in Houston, TX. The fact that it will take place in the same state as the shooting, only days later, highlights a scary reality about politicians’ loyalties. Lobby groups like the NRA are able to control politicians and how they vote on important issues. The majority of Americans support additional gun laws, but that means nothing. 

Seniors and juniors who will be 18 in November- we are able to vote. Register to vote, show up at the polls, and take a stance on gun laws. If you want to protect yourself in school and protect your siblings, friends, and acquaintances in schools, vote. Teachers- you have a responsibility to protect your students and yourself in schools. Vote for lawmakers in local and national elections who will pass common sense gun laws and finally make a statement that this is not okay.