Students are evacuated by police from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., after a shooter opened fire on the campus on Feb. 14, 2018. (Mike Stocker / Associated Press)
Ventura High School

Active shooter drills at school — what’s next?

I talk with my mom each day after I come home from school. We discuss the day’s events and eventually transition into what happened in the news. Too often we are discussing abortion ban laws, immigration restrictions, and mass shootings.

I recently went to the L’Taken Seminar hosted by the RAC in Washington DC. At this seminar I was able to learn how to lobby effectively, and I had the incredible opportunity of lobbying my congressperson for the Bipartisan Background Checks Act (which passed a couple weeks later).

As I stayed up late the night before trying to write my speech, I brainstormed why gun violence prevention was important to me. Of course the idea that I don’t want to get shot came to mind, but as I sat with my project partner for hours, I realized what drives me, a 15 year old, to push so strongly for these bills.

No matter what I discuss at home or with my friends or what I believe, our elected officials are the ones making the laws, not me. Our elected officials are from previous generations, and the laws they make reflect the mindset of previous generations.

I am a 15-year-old girl living in California. I attend Ventura High School. I go to the mall on the weekends. I attend public conferences and concerts. And every day, I have to worry about whether or not I will be the victim of another mass shooting.

Our elected officials make laws that seem to focus on preserving their support and funding from groups like the NRA. They don’t have to face the consequences of the laws they pass. But I do. My friends do. And I will no longer stand by as I watch another school get shot up on the news, or as I watch my president tweet his “thoughts and prayers” each time it happens.

History repeats itself. We’ve seen it with our world wars. We’ve seen it with Roe v. Wade. But when will our country see it for the epidemic that is gun violence?

After the L’Taken Seminar, I applied for and was accepted to a Gun Violence Prevention (GVP) fellowship run through the Religious Action Center in Washington, DC. In this role, I get to work with other students who share the same passion for social justice as I do, and we work together to implement GVP projects in our communities.

When brainstorming project ideas, I didn’t want to sign on for something small just for the sake of checking a box on a rubric to say I completed something. If I was going to put in the effort, I wanted it to be meaningful. I decided to focus on prevention at the high school level.  

I began to research previous curricula engaging high school students and went to my school principal with a proposal. I aim through the health, history and government programs at my high school to give teachers the tools to teach and advocate awareness for the epidemic of gun violence.

Freshman and sophomores will learn how to understand the signs of a person who seem like they might commit violence against themselves or others. After almost all mass shootings, we hear in the news how their family members “had no idea they would ever do something like this.”

My goal for this part of the course is to teach students how to stop being bystanders when they see bullying, and how to help students who may seem suicidal or have violent thoughts. For juniors and seniors, the curriculum will involve learning about previous gun control legislation, and then students will debate to advocate for their beliefs.

As a student in 2019, I have to pause my education to participate in an active shooter drills at school. I have to always be aware of my surroundings when I am out, and I am always afraid. My parents never had to do this. And I want to make sure my children will never have to do this.

Gun violence prevention is an issue that affects everyone. When someone is shooting up a school, a concert venue, a public park, I can assure you they are not concerned about whether you’re a Democrat, a Republican, an Independent, or a Moderate. It doesn’t matter.

Gun violence prevention is an issue of critical importance to our lives, and it will take every one of us to overcome the mass funding from groups like the NRA that are trying to stop us.

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