With the utmost respect, we need you to change. We are dying.
I was not yet eight when two deeply ill adolescents murdered fifteen, including themselves. I was not yet eight when KPRC Channel 2 News taught me what “Columbine,” “massacre,” and “suicide” were. Since then, I’ve witnessed, from a distance, more than forty notable mass shootings.
I was not yet 16 when I learned college was lethal. Virginia Tech. 32.
Not yet 17: Dekalb, Illinois.
Not yet 18: Binghampton, NY.
Freshman, Southwestern U: Ft. Hood, 35 minutes from my new home. College is dangerous.
Senior: Gabrielle Giffords. One of yours.
My generation carries the distant, shared trauma of thousands of lives lost to a gun violence epidemic. We carry Lifetouch flashes of slaughtered children, glimmering portraits of queer brethren, and facsimiles of swollen-faced baccalaureates deep and persistent in our memory and identity. We’re record breakers; we’ve smashed the score for Deadliest Shootings in the United States not once, but twice! Every day, I rise to death.
Sixteen shining faces peer into my sorrow, windows still dark from the fading dawn. In the dim, I plaintively explain, “Every Monday we discuss current events. Last night, an active shooter killed 50 people and injured 400 more in Las Vegas.” The carefree shimmer of being twelve evanesced from the desks before me.
This is the seventh time I have relayed massive, national tragedy to a room full of students. Transmitting the horror of Newtown will never leave me. In my first year teaching, days before Winter Break, I shared the news with insecure pallor. There, I spoke to myself, an unsuspecting girl, not-yet-fifteen, learning of evil; fearing the next day.
However, you and I both know this experience pales in comparison to the daughters with no fathers. The mothers who lost sons. The lovers suffering on. An evident epidemic ravages our nation. We need to face transition and change bravely, knowing the outcome provides a better future for everyone we know and don’t know yet. We need to face gun regulation with fresh eyes, unclouded by donation, lobby, or passion for sport. No reason for static or relaxing gun legislation is worth a single one of the lives stolen since Columbine awakened me to the violence that ravages my nation.
I am tired of telling twelve year olds about tragedy. When will you bravely go forth and reform our laws? Is the death toll worth it? Is the money? What are you doing to normalize peace?
I urge you to hear my story, and the stories of those who have lost far more than me. Increase gun control now. Prevent mass murder. End American acceptance and fetishization of firearms before it’s too late–again. My generation grew up being told the future was in our hands. It’s not. It’s in yours. Act now for humanity.
With hopeful regards,
7th Grade Language Arts Teacher
Williamson County, Texas