Content warning: This column discusses mass shootings and gun violence.
In 2012, 20 students and six adults lost their lives in the tragic Sandy Hook school shooting. Sadly, this event is not an isolated one. In 2018, one of the nation’s deadliest school shootings occurred in Parkland, Fla., leading to the loss of 17 precious lives. From 2009 to 2019, over 180 school shootings occurred across the nation, and with firearm sales at an all time high over the past two years and little to no change in nationwide support systems, this trend shows no sign of slowing.
The second leading cause of death for youth in the United States is firearm-related injuries. Yet, this trend is not consistent across the globe. Firearm-related deaths are 25 times higher in the U.S. than in some other high-income countries, and the U.S. has the highest number of guns per capita.
Following the Parkland school shooting, protesters nationwide vocalized their contempt for the nation’s inadequate safety measures. They advocated for gun control and begged our democratic government to protect the nation’s youth. These protesters’ pleas did not go entirely unheard. Policymakers like Rep. Ted Deutch from Florida’s 22nd District, home to Parkland, have taken steps in the right direction. For example, just this past week, Deutch introduced a piece of bipartisan legislation in the House aimed at providing funding for tightened school security. While both helpful and necessary, if passed, this bill would function as a Band-Aid-like approach. It would neither disarm future perpetrators, nor would it provide individuals with the support services necessary to avoid attempting a shooting in the first place.
I feel that the only way that the United States will achieve the bare minimum and lower the number of school shootings to rates comparable to the global averages will be to institute simultaneous gun control measures and mental health infrastructure. The fastest way to achieve these immense strides would require the Biden administration to stand in solidarity with not just the victims of past shootings and their families, but with each and every student and teacher in classrooms nationwide.
The administration must create comprehensive laws aimed to ensure that firearms wind up only in the hands of those who will handle them safely. In conjunction, the Biden administration should provide ample funding for school counseling services that would support struggling students, providing them the help they need to engage with their school and community in the healthiest, most fulfilling ways possible. Notably, although both of these approaches are necessary, restricting gun access will have a far greater impact and is the most integral step necessary toward creating a safer America.
Gun violence is an issue that does not discriminate. It can and has affected people of a multitude of backgrounds across the country. It is long overdue that we ensure that American classrooms are solely safe havens for learning, rather than potential deadly battlegrounds. We must not wait for the next shots to ring out amid backpacks and textbooks. It is time we hold the current administration to the standards we deserve and demand substantive action.