When tragedy occurred at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado in 1999, I was a junior in high school a few states away. We were all shocked to learn that 12 students and one teacher were gunned down by two high school boys, who later turned the guns on themselves. In all, 15 people died and 20 more were injured. The incident rocked the nation. A massacre of that scale—perpetrated by high school students—had never happened on school grounds in U.S. history and it sparked a national debate on gun laws that continues today.
As a kid growing up in California, we performed fire and earthquake drills. When my family moved to Kansas, I had to learn how to handle a tornado drill. I was lucky enough to grow up in a time when active-shooter drills were unheard of. I can’t imagine the psyche of American school children today who worry if one of their classmates will unleash a spray of bullets on them at any moment, and are forced to practice in preparation of such an event.
I’m not against guns. I was in the military for seven years. I have avid hunters in my family. I have relatives who are or were part of law enforcement for many years. However, I do believe that guns have a very specific place in modern-day society. What is happening in the United States is breaking hearts around the world. Innocent children should not have to fear going to school every day. School grounds need to become the safe-haven they once were.
After yet another school shooting Friday in Florida, a self-proclaimed firearm enthusiast and Second Amendment supporter, Scott Pappalardo, posted this video to his Facebook page with a simple “My drop in a very large bucket” and the hashtag “oneless.”
I want to applaud Mr. Pappalardo for having the courage to say that his particular weapon, the AR-15, should not be allowed to exist in the hands of an average citizen anymore. According to a recent Time article, “AR-15-style rifles have been used in recent mass shootings at in Aurora, Colo.; Santa Monica and San Bernardino, Calif.; Orlando, Florida and now Parkland.” There is no place in our civilized society for the capabilities that this weapon offers to regular citizens. Unless you are on an actual battlefield, the AR-15—the closest thing to an M-16—should be illegal to own.
If America can’t get this military-style weapon off the streets, lawmakers should be doing their best to limit the weapon’s capabilities. Specifically, the parents of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting of 2012 that claimed the lives of 28 people have a petition to outlaw large-capacity gun magazines like those used with the AR-15 in the massacre in Newtown, Conn. They believe that this will give children and faculty a few more crucial moments to flee.
I think any kind of regulation to get these sorts of weapons or their capabilities reduced is a step in the right direction, but laws can’t change hearts and minds. I’m hoping more civilian gun owners like Pappalardo will have an attack of conscience and do society and American schoolchildren a favor and dispose of their own military-style weapons. The real change needs to happen at home. Not only in regards to gun ownership and responsible use, either. These troubled-children-turned-shooters were the first casualties in each tragedy since Columbine. We must find a way to change their hearts and minds, or innocent school children will continue to suffer the consequences.
History.com Staff. “Columbine Shooting.” History.com. http://www.history.com/topics/columbine-high-school-shootings.
Drabold, Will, and Alex Fitzpatrick. “The Florida School Shooter Used An AR-15 Rifle. Here’s What to Know About the Gun.” Time.com. http://time.com/5160267/gun-used-florida-school-shooting-ar-15/.