From Parkland to Nashville: A Call to Action Against Gun Violence

Owen Morris, Guest Writer

Since the beginning of 2023, the U.S. has witnessed over 130 mass shootings, causing 193 deaths and 493 injuries. A string of these shootings gained national attention, such as the shooting in February at Michigan State University, where a 43-year-old gunman wounded three students and five others. In late January, a 72-year-old gunman murdered 11 people. He injured at least nine others at a dance hall in a predominantly Asian community in Monterey Park, California. Another mass shooting at a private elementary school was added to this long, sobering list.

 On March 27, a 29-year-old gunman, Audrey Hale, opened fire on students and staff at the Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee. With an AR-15-style rifle, a semi-automatic pistol, and a handgun, Hale killed three young students and three staff members.

For many young people like me, the story is nothing new or shocking. But, since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, young Americans and their families have feared their school might be next. With each new act of gun violence that blares across news headlines, the list gets longer and sadder to watch.  

Reading about the tragic event at the Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee, brought back a flood of memories. When I lived in Jacksonville and was in sixth grade, I vividly remember watching the aftermath of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Soon after, my Dad and I passed by the school during a trip to Miami. Driving by the school, one lasting image remains in my mind: piles of students’ backpacks stacked outside the building. Surrounded by yellow police tape, the bags served as a visual reminder of the students whose lives were upended when 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz killed 17 students and faculty and injured 17 more.

The Parkland shooting instilled a sense of urgency and action within me. As the survivors of the shooting rallied together for student action, I saw the opportunity to initiate a student-led walkout in support of the victims. With the incredible help of my family and my sister Madison Morris, a Miami Palmetto Senior High alum, I distributed a petition for students to sign in support of a student walkout on March 13, almost one month after the tragedy at Parkland. Supported by the school administration, students of Mandarin Middle School walked out of their classrooms to honor the 17 victims of Parkland, protest the gun violence epidemic and call on our elected officials to pass stricter gun control legislation.

Unfortunately, our nation again mourns the lives lost from another mass shooting. It has become evident that our laws do not adequately protect our schools, places of worship, or public spaces. Yet, opponents of gun control heavily cite the Second Amendment as protection for citizens’ rights to bear arms. In addition, they argue the necessity of guns in the hands of teachers to protect their students from mass shooters. Finally, they profess that the cause of mass shootings is not the gun but the gunman and their mental health issues.

Given the hundreds of lives lost in places once deemed safe, this collection of decades-long arguments fails to reassure students and families of their safety. While the Second Amendment cements the right to own a firearm, it is also over 230 years old. The founding fathers originally intended for it to permit the usage of rudimentary muskets and rifles. Now that arsenal extends to high-powered assault rifles that can fire at 3,300 feet per second (and in the Nashville Shooting), shred a child’s significant arteries causing massive blood loss and rapid subsequent death. 

The idea of arming teachers has become frankly unthinkable for many. My sister Madison, who teaches marine biology to elementary school students in Miami, fears the possibility of having to keep a gun with her while she teaches a squid dissection to fourth graders. Another complacent argument is that nothing can be done because gun violence is mainly attributed to mental health. But according to the Dubois County Free Press, if mental illnesses nationwide were cured overnight, gun-related violence would only fall by just 4%. 

Clinging to these arguments against gun regulations causes harm, especially by our elected officials, who are mandated to enact laws to protect us. In the wake of the Nashville shooting, Tennessee Republican congressman Tim Burchett plainly said, “We’re not going to fix it,” referring to enacting stricter gun control legislation. The congressman’s response is a disservice to the families, students, and staff of the Covenant school and the hundreds of families who lost loved ones to gun violence.

Finally, if you have ever visited Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, you have probably felt the gravity and solemnity of that place. However, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that more Americans have died from gun violence since 1968 than the 1.2 million servicemen and women killed in every war since the American Revolution

 So as we students at MPSH prepare to enter the real world, let us not forget the immense responsibility placed on us to tackle this grave, heartbreaking, and systematic issue.