I am scared that when I walk onto my college campus and walk through the classroom doors, it may be my last day on this Earth.
In 2022, there were more school shootings than in any year since 1999, while more than 70 people have been killed or injured by guns at American schools already in 2023.
In March, three children and three staff members were fatally shot at the Covenant School in Nashville. In February, a gunman killed three people and injured five others on campus at Michigan State University. Two of the victims were juniors, the same grade that I am in. There have been 380 school shootings since 1999 where more than 352,000 students have experienced gun violence at school since the Columbine school shooting.
To stop these heinous massacres and protect our students, I urge legislators to pass stricter gun laws and regulations throughout the process of purchasing a gun or assault weapon.
School is supposed to be a place of learning and spending time with friends. This is where amazing relationships should be built between students, peers and teachers. But it is hard to feel safe at school when so many children and adults are being murdered by people with guns.
So many students are traumatized and internally scarred from school shootings after seeing their friends die right in front of them. Along with this, even more students can be traumatized by the lockdowns and active shooter drills that all schools have. While the actual experience of a school shooting happens to a minority of people, almost every school child in the country performs these drills, which can be frightening.
Sometimes, I think that something so horrible as this would never happen to me or on my campus. While attending Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, I would never think there would be a school shooting near me. But the reality is that one of the most fatal school shootings happened only a few towns over from my university. Thirty minutes from where I go to school, 20 children between six and seven years old were shot and killed along with six staff members.
The example of other countries shows that regulation of guns is the solution to ending school shootings across the country. After a horrific mass shooting in Australia killing 35 people and injuring 23 in 1996, their newly inducted prime minister thought there was a need for change. Australia’s conservative prime minister pushed gun control legislation just 12 days after the shooting. These laws banned the sale and importation of all automatic and semi-automatic rifles and shotguns along with requiring citizens to present a legitimate reason to buy a firearm. Australia’s government destroyed about 700,000 firearms.
In the 26 years since their gun laws passed, there has been only one mass shooting in Australia while in the U.S. there have been thousands.
Many people argue against gun reform and instead advocate for better mental health services or policies to be put in place in order for these mentally ill shooters to receive help. Although implementing mental health resources is extremely helpful, I do not think the improvement in mental health services alone is feasible in ending gun violence because the object that is actually killing people is a gun.
Specifically, semi-automatic weapons. AR-15s have been used to mass murder people at a Buffalo supermarket, a Texas Walmart in 2019, a Florida high school in 2018, a Texas church and a Las Vegas concert in 2017 and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. The AR-15 style weapon is known to be one of the most popular rifles in America while also contributing to the deadliest massacres. It is designed to kill people quickly and in large numbers. Gun control advocates have stated that the assault-style rifle has no valid recreational use, and civilians should not be allowed to own them.
The Connecticut legislature is currently considering Bill No. 777, An Act Concerning the Prevention of Gun Violence. This bill contains more tactics to control guns and make the process of buying a gun better regulated. The bill would expand background checks, strengthen the assault weapon ban, give more responsibility to gun manufacturers and improve red flag laws. Although the AR-15 is banned in Connecticut, there continue to be loopholes in how people are sneaking in the assault-style weapon across state lines. Connecticut is known for having some of the strictest gun laws in the nation but is obviously vulnerable to guns that are bought elsewhere and brought into the state.
This bill addresses a community health need because so many people are being affected by guns. Not only in schools but in grocery stores, parking lots, movie theaters and parades there are people using guns to kill mass amounts of people. Children, adults, teenagers and elderly people are dying due to gun violence.
Gun violence is now the leading cause of death for children and teenagers in America, and the prevalence of these incidents leads to an increased sense of anxiety about future attacks on school grounds. A school shooting can shatter any sense of security that students feel at school and make them question whether their school is truly a safe place. These killings will continue to cause widespread fear throughout every student body in America if there aren’t stricter regulations on guns.
I hope that someday I will not be afraid on my campus and that the people who have a platform use it to advocate for our students.
Colleen Goulart is a junior at Sacred Heart University, majoring in Health Science with a concentration of Public Health.