Opinion: Proud and ashamed of our country’s divide over gun laws


Julia Henning

The other night, I sat for almost two hours watching clips of two different sides arguing over the safety of the United States. It has been almost two weeks since the shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida, and during this time we’ve seen young people come together but also seen the country divide.

There are multiple questions coming out of this situation. According to The Washington Post, over 150,000 students have experienced a school shooting at a primary or secondary school in the past 18 years going back to the Columbine shooting in 1999, yet there has been little research into whether these shootings happened because of accessibility to weapons, untreated mental health issues, or the way that we are socializing children and not addressing traumatic childhood experiences such as violence in their household while growing up.

A group of students from Douglas High School are addressing the first reason, accessibility to weapons, by making their voices heard and announcing that they believe now is the time to stand up for change in gun laws. They, as 16-18 year olds, are going to take this into their own hands to ensure that there will be action taken, whether it be by the President or a court.

I have done extensive research into this topic so I could formulate my own opinion. There are two “sides” in this debate, and they are more arguments than sides because they both have similar and very different beliefs. One argument is championed by the Douglas students (who have support from adults too) who believe in the abolishment of semi-automatic weapons and the accessories to make then fully automatic such as bumpstocks. The other argument is from the National Rifle Association (NRA). The NRA argues that it is not the access to the semi automatic rifles or bumpstocks but rather the gun user’s mental state and past that are the problem.

Both sides seem to care about the safety of the country, but the NRA does not agree that taking out semi automatics altogether is a good thing. The Douglas students met at a CNN town hall with Dana Loesch, a NRA representative. They got into heated debates in front of a national broadcasting system. The students, Kevin Trejos, Ryan Deitsch, Alfonso Calderon, Chris Grady and Emma Gonzalez, held discussions with Florida senator Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, and Representative Ted Deutch as well. At the end, there was a beautiful tribute performance by Douglas students with an important message, “You have brought the dark, but together we will shine the light” (CNN).

It disappoints me that 16-18 year olds instead of the adults who run this country have to take on this task. The fact that it took 17 lives being lost for people to realize that we need to deal with these problems makes me so frustrated and angry. Emma Gonzalez, 18 years old and a senior at Douglas High school, is the primary leader of this young movement. “Every single person up here today, all these people should be home grieving,” Gonzalez said. “But instead we are up here standing together because if all our government and President can do is send ‘thoughts and prayers,’ then it’s time for victims to be the change that we need to see.”

I was mad after hearing that students and classmates of the Douglas victims went to Washington to meet with Trump, because it would be the last thing I would think of to do. I was close-minded and thought that those students shouldn’t talk to him because he wouldn’t offer them any more support than a counselor could. But it was pointed out to me that I can’t put my opinion out there until I watched the hour live stream video done by the Washington Post so I could get a better understanding.

Trump’s solution after listening to these students severely disappointed me. He proposed that 20% of teachers should carry a gun in their desks and classrooms in the event of a shooting for self-defense.

Evidently, we fight violence with violence now. How can this be true? How will children feel any more safe knowing there is a gun within 20 feet of them? Families won’t feel safe. In an actual situation, the human traumatic sensors will have a fight or flight response. How many teachers will actually have the thought to get up and run to the safe and also have enough time? If a student is violent, what if he or she can get access to the gun? I think this is a ridiculous way to deal with the problem and I would not feel safe in school if I knew there was a gun in the building, even if it was in a safe.

If the school shooting had been executed by a Muslim, it would have been called terrorism, and right now the President would be signing very different orders and laws. It makes me disappointed that our country is not considering the fact that we should be handling every situation, no matter the skin color or religious beliefs, with the same laws and plans.

On March 14, I will walk outside at 10 am for 17 minutes to honor the 17 lives lost in this tragic shooting. I will stand out there so the people in Congress who are sending “thoughts and prayers” can know that they really need to do so much more. I will walk out so the survivors and their families from every school shooting will know I have their backs.

On March 24, the March for Our Lives will be held from the Cal Anderson park to KeyArena in Seattle. And on April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting, there will be another school walkout. These efforts bring awareness to this situation that has hurt my heart, but has also made me so proud of the young people leading this.

Opinion pieces reflect the viewpoints of the writer specifically and not necessarily the viewpoints of Inkwell or Annie Wright Schools.