America’s School Shooting Epidemic


Pflugerville March for our Lives led by CRHS student, Jamie Burgin.

It’s been roughly 19 years since America was rattled by the shooting at Columbine High School. On April 20th, 1999, 13 people were killed. Up until that moment, the incident was the worst ever to take place in a high school. News coverage of the massacre looped for days on the news. The country was made aware of the very real fact that children could be unsafe in a place of learning. It sparked gun control debate, and brought cries that this should never happen again.

But it did. Time after time, year after year, month after month, kids keep dying in American schools at the hands of gunmen. Some, like the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, are committed by adult shooters. Others, like the Marshall County High School attack in Kentucky, are caused by students. No matter what the case, many are killed, many more are injured.
Columbine remained the worst high school shooting in the U.S for almost two decades. That all changed on February 14th, 2018. A shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida left 17 dead and 15 injured. The shooter is currently in police custody and legal proceedings are ongoing.

For many of us, school shootings hit close to home because the victims are often our peers, who went to high school just like we do. Students, just like us, witnessed a horrific event at the very place where they should feel secure. Many thought they would not survive. “I was saying my goodbyes over text message to everyone I loved, because I was in the hallway,” he said. “I was saying, ‘I love you,’ and, ‘Whatever happens, I appreciate everything you did.’ Just making sure they knew that I loved them with all my heart,” Connor Dietrich, 17 told CNN.

Growing up and attending school post Columbine has meant lockdown drills. Dubbed by some as “Generation Columbine,” we are taught to hide and be quiet since elementary school from a potential intruder. The fear of violence always looms. Unfortunately, sometime it takes an event such as Parkland to remind us of the gruesome reality: something like that can happen anywhere. Knowing this, in a school wide email sent out the day after the Parkland shooting, Cedar Ridge administration stressed safety measures students and teachers should take, such as making sure doors leading outside the building remain locked at all times. They stressed the importance that drills should be taken seriously, that while “we do not want to scare anyone, we do want to prepare everyone.” For many that do not want to get into the ever complex gun issue, preparation is the only measure that can be taken.

There is one thing that has made Parkland unique from other school shootings. More often than not, survivors of such tragedies decide to fade into the background, and don’t often resurface into the public eye. Students from Parkland, however, have done just the opposite. All politics aside, these brave young people have used this less than ideal circumstance to make their voices heard. They have been able to directly speak with lawmakers, such as Florida senators Marco Rubio (R) and Bill Nelson (D) in addition to Congressman Ted Deutch (D). Many students take to the platform most of us use to communicate: social media in order to share their story and express what they feel needs to be remedied. Thanks in part to the outspoken advocacy of Parkland survivors, the Florida House passed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, later signed into law by governor Rick Scott. Measures include raising the minimum age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21, the banning of bump stocks (which allow a semi-automatic weapon to fire like automatic weapons), and funds to arm school staff. While met with different reactions, most agree that the law is a step in the right direction, such as Andrew Pollack, who’s daughter, Meadow, was killed in the Parkland shooting, “We thank the House and Senate for voting in favor of protecting our children. But more needs to be done and it’s important for the country to unite in the same way the 17 families united in support of this bill,” he said. Despite what the bill is and isn’t, it is the first successful gun control measure to pass in the state of Florida in two decades.

Student-led protests and demonstrations continue nationwide and culminated with the “March for Our Lives” on March 24th. Led by the Parkland survivors, hundreds of thousands of people- young and old- marched on Washington, D.C demanding gun control measures. The mission of the march was to, “demand that a comprehensive and effective bill be immediately brought before Congress to address these gun issues.” Anyone eligible was strongly encouraged to register to vote and do so in the coming midterm elections. Passionate speeches given by shooting survivors such as David Hogg, Emma Gonzales, and Cameron Kasky called for action and a demand for change. Others spoke of how gun violence disproportionately affects children of color in places such as Los Angeles and Chicago. More than 800 rallies were organized in every continent in the world, according to organizers. Locally, Austin, Round Rock, and Pflugerville also saw March for Our Lives rallies that drew out thousands of protesters saying “enough is enough.”

One of the most valuable tools we possess is our own voice. Use it to speak up for what you believe in. School shootings and violence in school is scary, but we do not have to be paralyzed by fear. As many have said, it is time to do something about it.