Lauren Cohen

American flag stands up on a hill.

Will we ever feel safe?

Columbine. Virginia Tech. Sandy Hook.

Now, we have another deadly school shooting to add to the list: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

When will this end?

There have already been a number of school shootings so far in 2018, and while the three mentioned above took place prior to this year, the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas has shaken our nation to its core.

In this case, a 19-year-old gunman who was a former student of the school was able to obtain an assault rifle, enter a public high school building and terrorize, traumatize, and kill 17 students and staff members.

Every American feels the effects of last Wednesday’s tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. This is something that we, as a school community, must care about.

My cousin graduated from Douglas four years ago. She remains in touch with the teachers and has friends with younger siblings who still attend. Her social media pages are filled with posts she has shared about the shooting, including messages from family members about their children who lost their lives, news broadcasts, politicians’ posts, and her own memories from high school. Seeing her pain at what happened at her alma mater breaks my heart.

There are a number of students in this area that have friends and family members who attend Douglas and were impacted by this tragedy. However, even those of us whose loved ones were not in danger on Wednesday feel the impact.

Last Wednesday night, while watching the news and seeing the death toll tick up to 17 students and staff members, all I could think about was: What if this had happened at Pascack Valley?

What if this happens here? What if this takes place at my sister’s school, friends’ schools, or any other school in general?

This was the first time I allowed myself to think about it, and I could not help but wonder what we, as a community, would do in this situation. Would the teachers and students know how to handle it?

It is not an easy thought process to have, but because this makes us so uncomfortable and upset, that means we must do something to change these all-too-familiar patterns of mass shootings and gun violence.

On social media, many people have been suggesting ways to make schools safer, such as setting up metal detectors at main entrances to schools or arming security guards. The security guards at PV are armed, but I do think that adding metal detectors to entrances cannot hurt. There are many ways to enter school buildings, so in order for this to be effective, all people entering the school would need to enter through the front door.

Walking a few extra feet would be just a small price to pay to make our school safer.

Other people have suggested arming the teachers; however, this idea takes it too far. Most teachers are not trained on how to use guns. Students and teachers alike would feel very uncomfortable having firearms in the classroom. Adding more guns into schools is not the solution; instead, it should be made harder than ever to acquire a gun.

I do not claim to have a solution to this problem; however, I do know that no civilian should have access to an assault weapon, such as AR-15s and AK-47s. These were designed for use on the battlefield, not killing innocent students and educators. I have no problem with responsible gun owners who use their firearms to hunt or in other activities, and I support the exercising of their second amendment rights. Nevertheless, I do take issue with how easily accessible guns are.

What the country needs are more extensive background checks and an end to loopholes that make it easier to buy weapons.

But it also needs more funding for mental health and help for people struggling with mental illnesses. As we have seen time and time again, perpetrators of mass shootings suffer from mental illnesses. They could be carrying out these horrific actions because they do not have access to the resources they need.

This problem goes deeper than whoever sits in the Oval Office at the time, as there have been mass shootings under our last 10 presidents. Instead, our lawmakers should be working together to change the culture of gun violence in America.

So I wrote to our Congressmen. I know that people think that one call will not matter. But let’s make our voices heard and reach out to politicians who have the power to change laws and make our country safer. No matter one’s political party, it is a universal belief that any child should not be just another statistic in the history of deaths due to gun violence.

No one should be afraid to go to school, but after last week’s shooting and the countless ones before, it is much harder to feel safe.

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