Zara Kulish, Staff Writer
On Feb. 14, 17 people were killed in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Flor. The suspected shooter, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, who was a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, until being expelled for disciplinary reasons, was arrested by law enforcement shortly after the event. The gun used in this shooting was an AR-15, which is a semi-automatic rifle. There was an armed guard outside of the school, but neither he nor the police went in right away. This was one of seven school shootings this year that have resulted in injury or death.
The public reaction was similar to that following other mass shootings — people sending their thoughts and prayers, followed by a debate on gun control. This past Wednesday, Feb. 21, a number of students from across the nation lent their voices to Parkland survivors’ call for action by walking out of their classes and gathering together to honor the victims of the shooting, and call for the end of violence in schools. President Trump, and others, have suggested the possibility of arming teachers with concealed weapons to stop attempted shootings in the future, but there is opposition to this idea.
I spoke with Claudia Velie, a junior at Kingston High School in Kingston, Wash., about her reasons for participating in the walkout, and what schools can do to improve safety for their students. She said the following: “I participated in the walkout mainly for two reasons: the first being to honor the 17 students who were killed in the Parkland shooting, and the second being to bring awareness to the faculty, parents, and even other students, that we are dying and we need to reduce these occurrences drastically. I believe that guns are absolutely okay to own, but not weapons that are created for an army to use in combat. Distribution of guns should be controlled and guns should be registered with the police or the government, which absolutely does not take away one’s right to bear arms. I do not think it would be wise to arm teachers. The whole point of the walkout, and all these protests, is to reduce gun violence, not create hazardous conditions for all faculty. An idea brought up in my class [to improve student safety] was to install metal detectors, and although that may not be possible in all schools, I think it would be a step in the right direction.”
Seth Hillsberry, also a junior at Kingston High School, and a Running Start freshmen at Olympic College, was not going to participate in the walkout because “the first thing I had heard of it was that it didn’t matter your position on gun control and that it was just to respect the deaths of those killed. If that was the truth, I would have participated… After [one of the participants] said that they were protesting AR-15s, I proceeded to walk to my class.”
His position on gun control is this: “I believe through the empirical evidence that has been shown throughout the U.S., and the historical significance surrounding it, shows that gun control is ineffective. I stand with the second amendment, and regard it as the one that protects all the others. Thousands of Americans die to protect our freedom, and through ignoring our constitution, we are systematically wasting their efforts. [Gun control] doesn’t work, and it is a restriction of freedom. Forcing teachers to carry guns won’t solve anything, however those that want to should be able to go through training and get certified to carry in schools. If [the law enforcement in Parkland] had done their job, it’s very likely that less people would have died. I think [improving safety] is important and very significant, but I can’t help but mention that the chances you will ever see one of these shootings in your life is almost nothing. Overall, we protect our president with guns, we protect our country with guns, and pretty much everything else important. We can do the same with children.”
While students across the nation walked out to get the attention of their school administrations and government officials, some did not feel the need to. Port Townsend High School in Port Townsend, Wash., did not walk out. According to Lysa Falge, the athletic director at the school, the administration takes this issue very seriously, and has already set up an anonymous call line for students who notice concerning behavior, as well as having a student resource officer on duty at most times.
I spoke to one more student during the course of my inquiries. His name is Thaddeus Smith, and he did not participate in the walkout at his school, because he felt it was taking advantage of the 17 people who died in the Parkland shooting to “push a political agenda that is flawed and ill-defined.”
Smith holds a firm stance on gun control, stating that he is “against anything that blatantly restricts what weapons the American public may or may not own, except background checks. The second amendment is clear, and gun control measures in Australia and Britain have had no effect on overall homicide rates. I think that in the public school system it isn’t wise to directly arm teachers, but in private schools absolutely. All schools should have some form of armed security, however. The lives of youth outweigh anything else. Honestly, the best thing we can do for student safety is armed resource officers who aren’t cowards like the Broward County Police Department. The shooting could have been stopped immediately if the police had just entered the building.”
Debate continues about the correct and most effective response to these shootings as many seek to find closure on these nation-shocking events.