When I was a sophomore at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school, in Parkland, Florida, a gunman entered my school and murdered 17 people. I hid in a closet, terrified that I was next. As a survivor of a mass shooting, whenever another shooting happens and gets broadcast in the media, your own trauma begins to haunt you again. And so it was recently, when a gunman entered Robb elementary school in Texas last week, and killed 21 people: 19 children and two teachers.
After the shooting at Parkland, we heard a lot of chants like “never again” and “enough is enough”. Sometimes, it felt like we were on the brink of change, like this senseless tragedy might be the catalyst for gun reform. There was no shortage of protesters or outrage.
Four years has passed since then. Nothing has changed. There are still children being gunned down in their schools, like they were in Texas. just this year, 27 school shootings have taken place in the US. Schools are supposed to feel safe. They’re supposed to be places where you can learn and grow and thrive as a person. Children simply can’t focus on their education if they live with the very real fear of being killed.
There was so much momentum after Columbine in 1999; after Sandy Hook in 2012; and after Parkland in 2018. But lawmakers in positions of power have failed to protect us or make any significant stride in gun reform. We desperately need policy changes to prevent another shooting like the one in Texas this past week. How many more people have to die before something is done to save lives?
The US is the only rich, developed country in the world with minimal gun laws, where our politicians allow children to die without stepping in. In many US states, you can buy a gun in under an hour. In other countries where mass shootings have happened, gun control measures have been enforced almost immediately. Less than a month after the Christchurch shooting in New Zealand, the country’s parliament voted unanimously to introduce a nationwide ban on semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles. Why can’t America follow this example?
Assault rifles and other similar weapons need to be banned. Background checks and mental health screenings should be required before a person is able to buy a gun. A national gun registry should be created. The majority of citizens want to see some form of gun control, but our laws and regulations only reflect the opinions of a minority who value their gun rights over people’s lives, and of lobbyists who value only profit.
When you survive a mass shooting, the trauma stays with you. When other mass shootings happen, and are broadcast in the media, your own trauma begins to haunt you again. Retraumatization takes a toll on your body, mentally and physically.
School shootings have long-lasting effects on survivors and their communities. They change you as a person and alter the course of your life. Being exposed to such trauma at a young age not only affects your mental health, but your brain development. Mentally, it can be hard to feel safe anywhere you go. You may have to deal with persistent panic and anxiety. It becomes exhausting to constantly be checking for a safe place to hide, or an exit route in any new room you enter.
This kind of trauma can be physically demanding, exhausting your body and causing health issues such as chronic fatigue and body pain. It can also change the way you interact with the world around you. It may be hard to explain your trauma to new people you meet, and it can be difficult to control your emotions when even simple things can trigger these memories.
After countless mass shootings, I’m starting to lose hope that we’ll ever be safe from gunfire in the US. Citizens need to get out and vote for the lawmakers who will put gun restrictions into place. We need to all show we care about ending these tragedies by holding our politicians accountable. It’s not just up to those in power – average Americans also need to get involved and speak out for what is right. Otherwise, some day they may find themselves – or their children – the victims of gun violence.
Do you have an opinion on the issues raised in this article? If you would like to submit a letter of up to 300 words to be considered for publication, email it to us at [email protected]
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism