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Local Students on School Shootings, Unabridged 

click to enlarge Fortuna High School students protest gun violence - PHOTO BY MARK MCKENNA
  • Photo by Mark McKenna
  • Fortuna High School students protest gun violence

Editor's note: This week's cover story featured excerpts from opinion pieces written by local high school students on the topic of school shootings and gun violence. Here are all the submissions we received from them, posted in their entirety and only lightly edited for style and grammar. Read them and join the conversation in the comments below.

'Deafening'

The protests happening across the country have both devastating and remarkable connotations. Devastating in both the events that have provoked these demonstrations and the lack of action from the government despite these continual student-led movements, which are explicitly asking for a legislative response. But they're are also simultaneously remarkable in the sheer magnitude and perseverance in not only the Parkland survivors but the rest of the nation's high school and college students.

The amount of effort and thought that these student activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where the shooting last month occurred in which 17 students and staff were killed, are putting into their campaigns and speeches to the country is incredibly inspiring. Their recently launched campaign named "What if?" is composed of questions to invite both the public and politicians to reconsider their views opposing gun control. Some statements include "What if the children of America become more powerful than our politicians?" or "What if politicians actually listened to the concerns of my generation?"

Here in Humboldt County, youth have also participated in student-led walkouts and demonstrations. At my high school, Northcoast Preparatory Academy, or NPA, myself and almost 90 percent of our entire student body walked out of our classes on March 14. During the national 17 minutes of respect for the Parkland victims, our school decided that we would call as many of our elected representatives as we could.

I was a part of the Walkout Committee, a student group that organized the logistical aspects of the walkout. We prepared a script for those of us who walked out, which offered numbers of representatives to call and a few brief sentences about where we were from, why we had walked out of school and what changes we wanted made. I was the designated reporter for our school's newspaper, so I had the chance to interview students and listen to their phone calls. Hearing the confidence of each of my classmates, even freshman, leaving messages at the White House and with representatives such as Jared Huffman, repeatedly brought me nearly to tears.

This issue and this debate are quite different from the topics of the previous national discussions that have become popular, such as abortion, police brutality, drugs, etc. This is something that every single student can say they are affected by. With the others topics, sure, you can pretend to ignore them or wait until they go away. The threat of school shootings and the discussion of arming teachers, however, can affect anyone, so people are somewhat required to have an opinion about it.

Because these events have been so prominent, not only with the public, but especially with high school students, it has shown the immense capability of America's youth. While there has not yet been direct federal legislation passed in acknowledgment of the students' voices, the response from the rest of the country has been deafening. This is because those who support this topic have felt comfortable enough to vocalize their support, just like the students at my high school did during our walkout. These movements have given people, especially young people, the assurance that they can be heard — if not by Congress, then by the rest of the nation.

— Amelia Parker, 12th grade

The Gun Control Debate

The reality of school shootings is so overwhelming that I don't think we really ever can grasp it. To those of us who have never been in a situation that even warranted a lockdown on our school campus, the thought of a shooting is something that feels so unrealistic that we often fail to address the possibility of it.

So many of us watched the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, unfold and heard the students speak in the aftermath. Hearing our peers speak about the pain and terror that struck their school on Valentine's Day brought a whole new level of reality to the situation. The reality is that we need to talk more. We need teachers to engage in conversations with us, to tell us what to do and when to do it. We need to know where to hide in every classroom and where to run to if we can. Support like this from our school administrators and teachers is absolutely vital to students feeling safe in class.

The reality that school shootings are happening is something we all need to face. If we keep shying away from what has happened, because it has become a partisan issue, kids will keep getting hurt. We need to talk. As students, let's start by listening to our peers. This means telling those who have experienced this pain, we want to listen when you want to speak. Let's start supporting those around us who are hurting, isolated or scared. This means active support. Let's stop ignoring the kids who are quiet, those who don't always raise their hands in class. We need to make a community that is strong, we need to be able to trust each other. Let's start to engage in conversations, start to bring each other up and smile at one another in the halls.

As students, we all want to be safe and we all want to feel like we are a part of something. Teachers, get to know your students. Ask them about their days and listen when they ask for help. Trusted adults are so important to students and we need to start building that trust. Parents, start addressing what has happened with your kids. Make a plan, talk about what they can do to protect themselves. If we find these ways to engage with one another and to hold each other up, we can grow a community that allows us to hold one another when we are in pain, and to help each and every student heal from our experiences.

Together we can hold hands with those healing from trauma and those still hurting. When the government ignores those who rightfully demand gun regulations, the community that we can build needs to support these courageous kids who speak out. Courage and strength come from all of us — teachers, parents and students — coming together to tell each other we are here, together.

As students, we must be the ones urging our government and leaders to make sure no one who may shoot people has access to guns. To those ready to share their stories, we want to listen. To teachers afraid to speak about a plan, please do; if we all know what to do, we can keep each other safer. Together, we can form a community that is much stronger than fear and hate. These are difficult conversations to have, but if we can talk to one another, we may no longer have to have them.



— Chloe Stemler, 11th grade


The "School Shooter," a Silent Sufferer

We as a society want to know how to stop school shootings but first we must ask ourselves what develops a "school shooter?" People blame it on the lack of gun control or the "shooter" but I say it is much deeper than that. Society automatically wants to blame the person with the gun but in order for the person to detach from the world and disregard human life, they must have a history that leads them to a desensitized state of mind. Their history must have biological, psychological and/or environmental reasons for having mental health disorders. A "shooter" is not of a stable mind, thus they lack the ability to make good moral judgments. I would never expect my school to be a victim of such horror as a school shooting but, as long as society wants to blame the guns and the shooter, we will not find a solution that prevents our schools from becoming the next victims of an attack.

Since school shootings have occurred more frequently, I now observe and survey my classrooms and ask myself which kid could be a threat to our school. I question how well I know my fellow classmates and wonder if the people I thought I knew could be someone I should potentially fear. It frightens me to think any student could cause so much anguish to so many innocent lives. Eureka High School has always been a safe place for me, as well as many of my fellow classmates. However, I witness situations at school and interact with students who do not feel the same safety within the school's walls as I do. I witness students being bullied by fellow students and, because of this, school is an unsafe environment. They have to attend school everyday and everyday they face the same abusive and aggressive behaviors from their attackers. Many of these same bullied students leave school and have to face more bullying and abuse in their homes from yet another attacker. "School shooters" aren't the healthy, happy students we see roaming our school halls. They are the students that withdraw and isolate themselves from the general population because they feel victimized.

Wikipedia defines a bully as "a person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker." Incidents of bullying can occur in a student's own household, from fellow classmates, in their social environments and, unfortunately, even from their institutional superiors. The effects of bullying and abuse at a young age damage their identity and mental health. In middle school, I was a victim of bullying. Not only did bullying affect my physical drive, it overwhelmed me mentally. If it wasn't for my supportive, guiding family and my loving, caring friends, I may not be as mentally stable as I am today. I was fortunate to become stronger from the incidents of bullying inflicted from my abuser. However, other teenagers they may not have the resources and ability to recover from such trauma. As the abuse destroys their self worth, they will seek to protect themselves and possibly get revenge. When we think of a "school shooter," we can't just blame the gun or the kid. We have to blame society, biology, psychology and environment to which the student has been exposed. In all reality, a "school shooter" is not only the attacker but the victim of a long standing attack. Until society starts accepting the root cause of "school shootings" we will continue to point fingers and argue about gun control. All the while, children continue to be victimized by bullying and, because nobody is protecting them, they are being groomed to become our next school shooter.

— Kyra Watkins, 10th grade



The Obligation of the American Youth

After a shooting, particularly a school shooting, a strange phenomenon begins and everyone starts pointing fingers. The far left starts blaming the far right and the far right throws accusations back. Some like to blame the gun and others blame the shooter. In my experience, it's hard to pick out the truth and harder still to come up with a solid opinion that is well informed.

According to ABC News, there have been 19 school shootings since the beginning of 2018, which makes America the leader of school shootings worldwide, by a landslide. The question that keeps popping into my mind is, why? How can so many tragedies keep happening and nothing is changing? So to me, the finger pointing makes sense. People are angry and demanding change, though, I agree, it is hard to determine what that change should be. As a student and just as a human being, I sympathize very deeply with the people who have experienced a school shooting. However, it's difficult to relate to them. I have never experienced a school shooting, nor have I been close to one that's happened. I hope I never will. It's hard to imagine the terror that the Parkland shooting survivors must have felt.

I researched California gun laws and found that it's really quite difficult to obtain a gun and the process of getting one is very detailed and not simple at all. I then researched gun laws in Florida, which are not as stringent as California's. The last school shooting in California was in 2012 in Los Angeles but for Florida it is obviously still very poignant and fresh. So, again, it's hard to relate. However, the fact is that the people who are shooting up schools aren't going through the system to legally obtain a gun. Recently President Trump revoked the law stating that people wanting to get a gun have to take a mental health exam. While California still upholds this law, federally, it has been revoked.

Across the country, students are planning school walkouts, marches and sit ins. Students are planning a walkout on March 14 at Eureka High and I plan on participating. Not as a way to proclaim my undying detestation for guns, but as a way to honor the lives lost at Parkland and at all the other school shootings that have occurred. However, I know some passionate students who want to do something more drastic in order to really change something. If lived in Florida, I would drop everything and join that group of people who demand change and will do what must be done to make that happen. I do not live in Florida and am lucky enough to live in place where the gun control laws are among the strictest in America. I simply don't think it is my place to protest laws in California that are doing their job, not hurting people.

What can I do, is what I find myself asking. I want to make a difference in my generation and create change for the better. I think it's important to talk about it, though it may be hard. Even more important, the youth must come together. There is strength in numbers and, no matter if you support guns or don't, if the youth of America can step forward and support those who have been lost and those who have witnessed the tragedy of a school shooting, then it is only a matter of time before change ensues.

— Catherine Holper, 11th grade


The Generation Of Change

When we, two students attending Eureka High, heard the devastating news about the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, we were heartbroken for the victims and their families. However, what we did not feel was shock over the fact that this type of tragic event occurred in our country. The frequency with which mass shootings have occurred since the events in Columbine, Colorado on April 20, 1999 is, in our opinion, beyond unacceptable.

We feel as if our country has begun to normalize these mass shootings; responding by labeling them as horrible incidents that need our thoughts and prayers. Well folks, the citizens of this country, have been sending thoughts and prayers for 18 years and look how affective that has been in making a substantial change for the better. Another shooting where 17 intelligent, innocent people's lives have not only been taken from them, but taken in a location where they should feel completely safe.

As students, we enjoy learning and demand a safe place to do so. Driven by inspiration arriving from the students of Stoneman Douglas High, who are using this tragedy as a platform to speak up and create change, we are taking action. We have planned a school walkout at Eureka High in order to remember the lives of the victims of the Stoneman Douglas High shooting and every other mass shooting in United States history. We also hope to spread the message that all students need to feel safe at school, and common sense gun control measures must be made.

While we didn't grow up in households with gun culture, we support Second Amendment rights. However, the idea that we can get guns easier than we our driver's licenses is absurd. With an understanding of the hunting culture in Humboldt County, we would like to make it very clear that we aren't suggesting taking away all guns from everyone. We are simply suggesting that universal background checks and controls need to be placed on people before they can buy a gun. We also suggest restrictions on military-style assault weapons. If the shooter at the school in Florida had a shotgun instead of an assault rifle, he may have caused harm but much less. These powerful guns make it easier for people to kill more efficiently, faster and with overall more devastation, and this must not be allowed to continue in our country.

We aren't naive to think there is one solution to this problem. Mental health issues need to be addressed. Communities also need to spread kindness. Finding the solution to this very complicated issue will require many changes in approach to a multitude of layers. It will most likely be anything but an instant answer, requiring us all to continue fighting for long-term change.

On March 14, Eureka High will have a walkout at 10 a.m. We encourage students to rally together and spread the message about keeping schools safe. Messages of change will start in small communities and then grow. Us young adults, the future of America, hope to create a change in our community of Eureka. We know from being exposed to today's politics, we are the ones who can change the future. We will be the generation that makes a difference and we are starting now.

— Klayre Barres and Kyra Dart, XX grade


A Child's Worst Nightmare

When we were little, our greatest fear was the monster hiding under our beds. As we got older, we feared Jason and Freddie getting us in the night, and now our greatest fear is getting up to go to school. School is supposed to be our safe haven. A place where we go eight hours a day, five days a week. A place where we come to forget our worries and troubles. School to me always felt like a second home but now it's just another place I dread going.

We as a nation need to find a middle ground before another school gets shot up. According to Time magazine there have been approximately 290 "school shootings," ranging from mass shootings like Sandy Hook and Parkland, Florida, to adults having brawls in the school parking lot after hours, since 2013 . Taking away guns or making the gun laws stricter is not the only solution. We need to increase campus security and seriously think about installing bulletproof glass all throughout the schools. I have listened to many interviews where Parkland survivors agree that if their school had better security measures, it could have saved dozens of lives. It's obvious that increasing security and installing bullet proof glass will never be the solution to end all school shootings but it is a good place start. We need to put aside our political beliefs and come up with a good plan to ensure that no family will get a phone call home letting them know their child has been injured in another mass shooting.

Being liberal or conservative had nothing to do with these school shootings. Many believe the causes behind most of these shootings are due to the fact that it's too easy for an unstable person to get his or her hands on a gun without proper background screening, and many other Americans believe changing the guns laws is unconstitutional and unnecessary. We will never be on the same page and we will never fully agree with one another's beliefs, but should the children across the United States suffer just because we can't find a middle ground where we're not stepping on one group's beliefs? Even if we couldn't find a middle ground for the gun laws, we should come up with a plan for every school no matter the size. All across the United States, students took 17 minutes out of their day to mourn the 17 precious lives lost in a deadly mass murder, but that wasn't the only reason for the walkout. Depending on which student you ask, they will give you a different reason for walking out. For some students, it is was an opportunity to voice their opinion on installing better security measures and others didn't like they're Second Amendment being messed with. All in all, the underlying reasons are the same. We're scared. It's scary to think that your school could get shot up as easily as the other schools were. Students shouldn't come to school scared for their lives. They should be focusing more on the beautiful lines in "Romeo and Juliet." Not whether or not today will be a safe day to come to school.

— Danika Gritts, 11th grade





People are dangerous

I've lived in McKinleyville all of my life. If you asked me if I think that people could do these things to kids, I would never believe it. I don't understand how people could stomach these kinds of events. Of course this will bring up the topics of gun control and safety.

At schools, we always practice school safety and, sure, we practice lockdowns and earthquakes. Are we really prepared mentally and physically for a school shooter on campus? We should be training our students, as well as teachers, mentally for this situation. Having us sit under our desks until we hear bells is not good enough training. Try taking us by surprise with lockdowns so we get mentally prepared to be taken by surprise without panicking. We would know to stay calm, cool and collected. We would like to think that we're prepared with all of the drills we do at school, but I feel like it's not enough because when the real deal hits us most of the people will be panicked because they weren't truly prepared for the moment. We should have fail-safes for our main ideas. A backup that only key people know about so no one gets told and knows how to compromise it.

My beliefs intersect with others and I know everyone's opinions matter in situations like this. I do not blame guns in this situation. I blame the person who could fathom doing this. It's not like this man showed the symptoms of being a mass school shooter when he purchased the weapons. There's no real way of knowing so you can't really blame the gun laws. In my eyes there was no real way to prevent this. There were so many ways to catch this guy but we missed every opportunity. There were just chances that we missed like the uber driver could have discovered that he was carrying a weapon but it all just worked in the shooter's favor. So before you go blaming the weapons that are used, you need to look more into security and transportation. The security guard of the school was not prepared and cowered away, which cost kids their lives. He was not prepared to give his life for the upcoming generation. We need to put schools first in these times.

— Craig Peterson, 11th grade

Current Student and Future Teacher

I am a junior at Mckinleyville High School and I plan to become a math teacher when I am older. As a person who loves drama, I love to partake in my school's Advance Theater Workshop class and the spring plays. Off the top of our heads, we make up different situations and perform them. The situations with guns and school shootings are nothing I could have ever imagined to be a reality. As Andrew Pollack (father of Meadow Pollack who was killed during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting) said during President Donald Trump's listening session on Feb. 21, "It's school safety, it's not about gun laws right now. That's another fight, another battle. Let's fix the schools, then you guys battle it out. Whatever you want but we need our children safe." Mr. Pollack went through something no father should. To sum up, he said the main issue is not gun control. It's how to make schools safer. He also talked about how it took one time for something to happen at the airport or a concert and the safety of those places increased. So why isnt that happening at our schools? How many dead kids will it take?

My school is a very open campus. For lunch, it is open and many kids either walk to one of the two gas stations in the area or drive somewhere. The doors are always open. I honestly do not feel safe here. I have heard many stories of random people walking on campus and just roaming around. Even sitting in my car in the student parking lot because I'm a little late for class, I have seen some weird things, like people just driving in and then turning around and leaving. I have made plans with friends and my boyfriend on what we would do if something happens, how we would make sure the other is safe. I pray nothing ever happens but you don't think its going to happen to you until it does and, by then, it's already too late.

As I said before, I plan on being a math teacher later on. If everything goes to my plan, then I will be spending many more years at a school. I don't want to change what I have planned for my future just because I don't feel safe. That is how we lose good teachers. They leave for a better job, a safer one. I don't blame them but what about the few students who need those good teachers?

In my opinion, we should keep the doors around the school closed and get better locks for classrooms. We should put more money into the safety of the school rather than then sports. Invest in Barracuda Intruder Defense Systems. I realize this all takes money but I believe our community will put the effort and money into protecting our schools and children if we ask them.

— Ariel McElrath, 11th grade

I Don't Have The Answers

As a teenager with social media, I've seen my fellow peers post about their beliefs and events they go to in order to show their support. Teenagers are a lot stronger and wiser than they're given credit for. This past Valentine's Day, an incident occurred in Parkland, Florida, that shocked the nation. Valentine's Day is meant to be a day to celebrate and spread love. But this event at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School did the exact opposite.

Teenagers across the United States decided to be the ones to stand up and speak out about their feelings toward gun laws and what should be done about them when adults and people in higher power wouldn't. A student-led national walkout was held on March 14th at 10 a.m. in which students all across the country got up and left class in order to commemorate the lives lost in the Parkland shooting, as well as protest gun laws. During this walkout, there 17 minutes of silence were held in honor of the 17 lives lost in the shooting.

In regards to the Parkland shooting itself, you really wonder, did Nikolas Cruz have specific targets? Did he intentionally shoot the 17 people he did? He was clearly very troubled and was diagnosed with illnesses such as depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, emotional behavioral disability and autism. His mother told the police he also dealt with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and anger issues. He had been seeing a counselor and taking medication but in January of 2017 he stopped getting treatments for his mental health issues. Based on these few facts, it is clear that he had problems that were not handled properly. I personally believe the attack was a way to take his anger toward things he went through in his time at the school being that he was labeled as very lonely.

I have views on many things that I feel strongly about, but none of them have really ever been about gun laws. But after the shooting happened, it made me think, "What are my opinions and views on gun laws?" And honestly, I'm still not entirely sure. It's not something you can just decide within a moment. But is anyone really sure? I'm a junior in high school and I don't know what to think or how to even process what could be done to solve this recurring issue. All I can say is that I hope one day this issue will be solved in a way that will help us avoid more innocent lives being lost and for those who are troubled to get help to get better.

— Tamia Crackel, 11th grade



Reasonable Measures

As a high school student, I don't worry about gun violence happening to me. I feel relatively safe at school but I also realize that gun violence can happen anywhere, anytime. However, the recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida caused me to think about the subject more than ever. I think it is obvious that America needs to improve the current system.

I'm not opposed to people owning guns but I do think that reasonable measures should be taken to ensure public safety. I believe that more gun regulation on the national level is in order. There are too many inconsistencies among the separate states. I would implement common sense limits on magazine capacity. California, for example, has a 10 round capacity, which is a reasonable amount for any target shooter, hunter or home owner. There also needs to be better overall awareness of the hazards of firearms, as well as mandatory gun safety classes for gun owners. People have to take driving classes to get their license, or to drive a big rig truck, so why not do the same thing for firearms? Why couldn't we take a more practical approach to firearm safety, the way we would with any other type of problem? What is it going to take for our country to realize that the risks increase every day that we put it off? I would make more of a distinction between normal guns and assault weapons. Perhaps there should be more classifications of firearms that would require additional authorization and training. There is no reason for the average citizen to own military-grade firearms. If someone wants to shoot these types of weapons, they could be required to keep them locked up securely at a gun range. I believe that there is more gray area when it comes to the Second Amendment than is currently being discussed. It doesn't have to be all one way or the other, and people on both sides of the issue need to be less ideological and more open to compromise.

The other aspect of recent school shootings is the psychological effect they have had on me. Whenever I see a quiet, troubled loner at school I no longer look at him or her as a depressed and harmless teenager, but as a potential school shooter. I find myself keeping a distance and a close eye on them at all times. I also consider possible escape routes and safe areas where I could hide if I needed to. I am much more aware of my surroundings and how I could use physical barriers to protect myself and my friends. I run through possible scenarios in my mind in order to prepare myself for the worst. I never thought I'd have to think this way at school but that is the new reality. Sometimes I can't believe that it is real. I think that all schools should practice active shooter drills on a regular basis in order to be prepared for the possibility of an attack. I used to think of school as a safe place but the sense of security is dwindling with each new shooting. I hope that this is just a trend that will go away in a few years once our society has dealt with it more effectively. I'm saddened to live in an era in which school shootings have become the new normal. I never thought this sort of thing would happen in our country. I hope that our leaders are able to come up with a better solution than they have so far.

— Theodore Wade, 11th grade


Into the eyes of a student

My views toward school is that I feel unsafe when I am present in school. The idea of someone coming on campus and hurting me is very apparent and everyday I just wonder if it will be today or tomorrow. I know that is an awful way to think but, with the way things have been going, I don't think I am too far from the truth. I could think of a number of students who would gladly bring violence to the schools and that makes me scared. I say this because it is jokingly expressed in the schools daily. More people are becoming bolder when it comes to hate speech and being aggressive, especially when it comes to their own opinions and views. With that comes an unsettling feeling whenever my peers and I get into debates. I want to be able to go to school and not have someone verbally abuse another when I am in class because with that can come violence.

If we can stop and all agree that schools are currently unsafe and start brainstorming ideas then I think we can come to some solutions. A lot of the ideas that are being expressed right now do not go to the main source, which is guns.

Now, my view toward guns is that we should make it harder to get guns and we should limit the number that you are allowed to have, but I don't think we should completely take away guns.

I understand the second amendment says we have the right to bear arms and I can respect that, but when you have 10-plus guns, I wonder if you really need that many — you only have two arms. If you really need it for protection, you are most definitely only protecting yourself from people who also have guns.

I hear the argument that the reason gun violence is a problem is because the "bad" people have guns. Who is the government to determine who is good and bad? Another thing, no one is purely evil or purely good. We are a mixture of both and trying to take ourselves away from that is silly. Human beings are beings that can be awful but humans can also be compassionate and loving so saying that only the good people should get guns makes no sense. If we can just figure out some ways to make our schools safer without giving teachers guns or taking away guns, then I think we can come to a compromise. All I want is to feel safe when I am present in school because school is a place where you are supposed to learn not be scared.

— Tsewiniche Van Pelt, 11th grade


At Any Moment

I am a 15-year-old girl in ninth grade with the worry of having to be nervous to get an education because at any moment something tragic can happen. As a child in this sorrowful generation, we were always the ones being told we are the future. We hold the power to change our world. We are the ones who hold peace. I grew up in a town where things were always good and our community was a team who wanted good things for our children and their education. As our world and country have remorsefully changed, people changed to adapt to that, from poverty to an affluent lifestyle. As I entered high school, I felt like that was my safe place for the next four years of my life as I was sort of moving in for a short period of time. I felt like everything was safe and we were protected from everything around us on our campus. To think that there are so many easy access entrances around my school anyone could be blindsided. And once you think about that, you start worrying about you and your peers safety.

On top of all of the issues going on in my own life, hearing about young people who choose to make a decision to put others in danger to end their own life is heartbreaking and I feel for each and every person suffering, from the kids who are thinking this is the right thing to do, to all the families who lost something precious to them. Each and every single person in this world who has heard about this tragic event has their own opinion on how things should have gone and how we should handle it, but what we have to say now does not change what happened and what people think should have happened, because it doesn't matter. What we should say now is, "Let's help our children when we know they are suffering, when we know we can do something to keep them safe because our children are our the future and without them there is nothing." I have watched multiple parents talk about the loss of their children to this event and they all say the same thing. They say they would do anything to see their babies one more time, to be able to wake up and not send their kids to school because they thought that this was going to happen.

Humboldt County is a community full of individuals like me, willing to make a change for the better. We need to stand up and make a difference because we could say how much we need to change, but those are just words. Help your children and the children of others go to school and grow to be full and happy because we are the next generation. We are here today to fix yesterday and learn for tomorrow. Love what you have and understand what you know because you never know when you aren't going to see the one you love again.

— Sonora Breault-Miller, ninth grade

Make Schools Safe Again

My name is Malachi Stephens, and I am currently a student at McKinleyville High School. I, like many others, saw on the news and watched in horror at the sight of another school shooting. But I also wondered what are we doing to protect the students and faculty on even our own campus? Sure, we have lockdown drills but you never know how you'll react in the situation when it's life or death. I may not know what the best answer is. It may be arming the staff or it may be more gun laws, or it could be an answer no one has come up with yet.

But in my opinion while thinking through each of these not-so-good options, I've concluded that arming trained staff would only be a problem if said staff were to make a mistake, like the teacher at Seaside High (he had mistakenly discharged his firearm in class at the ceiling and injured a student.). Changing the gun laws would result in less people who legally obtain firearms but the criminals who illegally get them wouldn't be affected. Furthermore, I believe arming staff would result in less school shootings and increase security because of the "fear factor" of having trained staff. Another suggestion I would make is security checkpoints or metal detectors in schools to keep weapons out and make schools safer to be in. Compare a school like mine with an open campus to a school with armed staff and metal detectors. Which is more likely to get attacked?

But school shootings aren't just about the weapons used but also the people who use them. We should equip schools with the opportunity to give all students a mental evaluation, or yearly checkups. Having these implemented would further decrease the amount of school shootings. This should be a priority in schools, our schools are underfunded in the mental health department, and this shows by the frequency of these terrible attacks. It honestly doesn't surprise me anymore that attacks happen because of what people go through on a daily basis, and some people just can't deal with it and turn to violence.

The worst part of all this is how our generation has become numb to all of the violence and shootings because we grew up with it. It's almost expected to be on the news at this point and that is even more terrifying than the shootings themselves.

— Malachi Stephens, 11th grade



My Stance on School Shootings

My name is Cian Ferguson and I am a junior at McKinleyville High School and a strong believer in safe schools and the Second Amendment. As a high school student, I tell myself every time one of these tragic school shootings happens, "Oh, that won't happen here, not at McKinleyville." For the longest time, I believed myself. When I was a little kid getting dropped off at school, I was always told by my teachers that  it was a safe place and I didn't have to worry about anything, and I believed them. As I got older and started becoming more aware of the outside world and saw all of these different cases of school shootings, my mind set still stayed the same: "Oh, that won't happen here." It took until last year, when Fortuna High School had bomb threats, for me to realize that school is not a safe place and I hated the feeling that just anyone could come shoot up the school and we would be completely helpless of the situation.

About twice a year we practice for an active shooter and that just means that we turn off the lights, shut and lock the door, and pull the blinds shut and keep quiet and pray the shooter will just pass by. It absolutely angers me that that is all we can do when an active shooter is on campus. We live in a world today where every kid has a computer in his pocket and we have had men walk on the moon, but our safety drills for schools only include locking the doors. Are you kidding me? In my eyes, I feel like schools should arm the majority of the staff and/or have armed security on campus, along with lockable fences around the school.

A lot of people in society today want to blame the firearm, which in this case, is not the problem. The problem is people with a sick train of thought, sick enough to murder children. They are the problem. Some states think the solution is to raise the eligible age to buy a firearm to 21 but a lot of these active shooters or "school shooters" are already over the age of 21. The ones that weren't already 21 may have gotten their hands on the firearms by theft or illegally purchasing one. By the act of raising the legal age to 21 to purchase a firearm, I believe that is would hinder our Second Amendment and is in violation of the constitution.

I don't understand every time a tragic shooting happens, the extreme left is always so fast to blame guns and not the mental health of the shooter. For example, days following the shooting in Las Vegas, extreme leftist Hillary Clinton was very quick to blame the National Rifle Association in numerous news interviews. I feel like the left preys upon this subject of school and mass shootings  to find an excuse to take action on exterminating our Second Amendment and it is wrong. I think it was also a very brave and bold act of the NRA in suing Florida to repeal the eligible age back to 18 from 21. Why should the law-abiding citizens of the USA be penalized because of one person's sick act of firearm abuse? Schools would also no longer be targets of mass shooting if staff was armed. Shooters are looking for big crowds of people that are not armed and this is why concerts, rallies and schools are so targeted. I believe if we take these actions then school shootings will be history.

— Cian Ferguson, 11th grade

My Thoughts on Gun Control

I have been pondering this subject for some time now. I've done immense research, as well, so I could fully understand what it is that everyone is so hyped up about. I have come to realize that banning our guns is useless. Everyone is worried that guns kill people. That statement is overused. Anything can kill people: a pen, a knife, a piece of plastic. It's the human mind. If someone is mentally ill, their fight or flight is elevated. For example, for a child who is being bullied, their response is kill or be killed. The problem isn't the gun or the gun holder, it's the people who drove that person off the edge. There's a monster in everyone scratching to get out. Other people make it easier to let the monster out, but those people don't want to take responsibility for letting the monster out. It's easy to play the victim.

We don't need stricter laws or banned guns. We need better mental health plans and stricter consequences for bullying and abuse. That's the cause of school shooting and public outbursts. People want to be taken seriously and to be respected. Sometimes respect comes from fear. There are three groups of people. There are those who have been pushed over the edge and perform the shootings. There are those who push and then cry about the action that has been carried out. And there are those who use guns as protection from break-ins, or they use guns for sport, like hunting or gun range competitions.

For the group who are like me and love and respect others along with my guns, the government cannot take our guns. The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution reads: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." I've done a lot of research on this topic, trying to find out if the government can really take your guns and they can't. We the people have more power than we think. Fear is taking away our ability to look at this situation as a whole and not just the tool. The second group of people I identified are afraid so they want to take the tool, but if we all are able to have a calm discussion on this we could see just respecting each other and taking bullying and harassment, etc. more seriously it would make the U.S. a lot safer and less problematic.

My final comment is that all we should do to regulate guns is to enforce background checks, mental health tests and enforce gun safety classes. Schools should have safer protection, like push locks, metal or steel window covers and door covers, and an officer on campus. Small adjustments like these will help. Like I said earlier, people who want respect sometimes have to demand it, so they use fear to gain the respect. These shooters are driven to these actions for the desire for respect.

— Angela Price, 11th grade

Protecting our future

Our future is in jeopardy with the current system and policies in place by our government and the way they are going about change. Our government wants to completely ban guns, however the Second Amendment is made for us to defend ourselves from our government if corrupted or other enemies. Now I agree the Parkland incident was a terrible tragedy and strikes fear into me as it should strike fear into anyone in schools who is part of our nation's future. I'm a junior in high school and all these kids my own age are now dead, gone from existence. They were our future and they are gone. Their voices will never be heard, their lives never experienced and their emotions never felt.

Incidents like these need to be prevented and stopped, but that is a very general statement. We don't need a huge ban on guns as opposed by many, what we need is better policies. I propose that we make it harder to get guns but not take them away. I propose we start with making a better mental health check for anyone who wants to own a gun. A large majority of shootings have been by those who are mentally unstable. Mental health is a very underfunded and ignored problem in our nation and both it and gun violence need to be better addressed. Next, we need to shut down gun trade fairs that allow people to just show up and buy guns at the fair with ammunition. Gun fairs allow criminals or the mentally unstable to get guns without any check on their background. From there, we should make a mandatory one-month waiting period for guns once the purchase has been made before you can receive it. This would make it an extra step of security so that if any new found evidence of the person was brought up it could be revoked.

Now lets look at the fact that the these aren't the policies our country is pushing forward, our country wants an outright ban on guns. As stated above, I disagree with this route and don't believe that the we should lose our Second Amendment right. Gun violence needs to be approached with a manner like the steps that I have laid out,; we can't go to an all out ban over fear because if fear wins we're all sheep to it. Letting the violence and fear cover our eye won't save our future, but only make it weaker. I'm saying this quite scared myself as my school has a 100 percent open campus, but I won't be brought down by fear. I will back and support of policies like mine and hope for a better and safer future for the youth like me.

— Trent Padilla, 11th grade

School Shootings are Normal

I am a student attending Mckinleyville High School in the small county of Humboldt. I don't generally watch the news. They always talk about sensitive topics that I do not want to be involved in. I'm one of those people who doesn't exactly like politics, which is all they ever talk about on the news prior to this year. Doing this, I will hear about only the main events from friends and family who do, in fact, watch the news.

Therefore, I heard about the shooting in Parkland, Florida, from my friends and family. All I knew at the time was 17 people were killed and 17 more had severe injuries. I thought nothing much more on the topic. Shootings and such horrific things I have grown accustomed to. But we have to face the fact these events are slowly increasing in happening, becoming so common it's almost normal.

On March 14, 2018. Kids in my high school, ninth through 12th graders, gathered outside of class in 17 minutes of silence for the 17 adults and children that lost their lives on that day a month before. I still don't understand what they are trying to solve. It definitely opened my eyes to the fact of how devastating the whole thing really was. Innocent kids losing their lives to who they once may have even seen as their friend. What is shocking me the most is how some teachers decided to give these kids standing in an oath of silence a cut from the class they missed. Overall, it was a brave and kind thing they did. Whether it was to protest or just to honor the 17 people who lost their lives.

The parkland shooting killed 14 teenagers along with three adults. Adults who all died protecting students full heartedly. Fourteen kids working to get their degrees, some on there last year of high school waiting, stressing the day they graduate, only to have their near future taken from them by a peer they all neutrally trusted. If the school was more prepared, would it have made a difference? That's the biggest question I have. Even if kids were armed, it's not certain their own bullets would have hit the perpetrator.

Take another shooting outside of school for example, say at a mall or in the middle of a small town, or even a massive city like New York. I'm sure a few people may have a gun. Have you ever heard of the shooter being taken down by an armed citizen? Even if you have, it doesn't happen often. The few that have done such a honorable thing most likely are considered heros.

This brings me to the kids who died trying to save their friends and peers in the Parkland shooting. A 15-year-old boy died trying to save as many peers as he could. Because of his heroic acts, he had military honors at his funeral. Along with two other students said to have died protecting or helping peers, these are true examples of real life heros you'd see in a marvel movie.

Reflecting on this whole school shooting ordeal, I think something should be done to keep schools more safe so a teacher can teach without these terrible worries and their students can learn.

— Kalissa Schuchard, ninth grade



Title: Speak Up

I am a freshman at Mckinleyville High School and I was so excited, but also nervous, to come to high school. I was nervous because I thought that my teachers and students were going to hate me and that I wasn't going to pass my classes. After a few weeks, it started getting a lot better and it wasn't that bad. School was going great, but then we started hearing about these school shootings around the world and kids getting shot and teachers, too. It's scary to think about what people are capable of and why would they want to do that to kids or anybody.

When I think to myself, I wonder why school shooters go into schools for no reason. Is it maybe because they had something bad happen to them in high school or they had a child that got shot in a school shooting? I wonder if they think about how it would affect the lives of the people that they took or are thinking to take. Just think about it. How could you go into a school or anywhere and go on a shooting rampage? I wonder sometimes how people could do this to kids and what made them want to go into a school and shoot people. I could barely imagine just seeing one of my best friends getting shot and how that would have impacted my life or how my parents would react. I go to school wanting to learn not be scared for my life to hear about another school shooting in the neighborhood or even hear the school alarm go off.

Guns shouldn't be taken away from people because people are always going to have guns, whether they're illegal or legal. It's just how things are going to be. I just don't know why people could do this. From 2013 through the end 2017, there were 305 school shootings in the United States. Since 2018 started, there have been shootings in Alabama, Michigan, Virginia, Mississippi, Florida, Tennessee, Maryland, L.A, Kentucky, Texas and North Carolina. The shootings aren't going to stop there. They are going to be happening more and more if we don't do anything to stop it and resolve the problem, so kids can feel safe again.

Since I am only a freshman in high school, I honestly have no idea what we can do to prevent school shootings from happening. Maybe if the government put more security features in the schools like a metal detector or something like, that might have an impact to try and solve the problem. I feel like kids shouldn't have to worry about a school shooting and getting shot, and instead they should worry more about graduating and wanting to learn as much as they can. I go to school to learn and to feel safe but these shootings are making me not want to go to school. I guess I just feel like our government is failing all the kids that want to learn because the government isn't really doing anything to stop the problem. I miss the days when I first became a freshman at MHS and all I was really worried about was grades and drama. Now since I am hearing about these shootings at schools, it makes me more fearful than anything at my school. All I want is to be safe at the place that I am learning at and learn as much as I can.

— Rose Christie, ninth grade

That Chilling Moment That Could Change Lives Forever

I've been a student for some time, elementary, middle, and high school. Sometimes I have felt unsafe at school. In my first year of high school, someone brought a gun and showed it to me. I didn't do anything about it, as I thought they would hurt me if I told. At that moment I knew why bringing weapons to school was prohibited. The safety of students is important. Administration tries to prevent the worst from happening to their students. That someone was someone I talked to in class but we weren't friends. Especially after that, I knew they would be trouble.

After school that day, I told my mom about it and she said to stay away from them, and never be friends with them. I didn't tell anyone about the incident, as I knew it would get me in trouble. If that gun came out of the backpack, it would've been dangerous. Instead it was contained, so I thought we were safe. However, sometimes that's not the case, the gun could've been taken out and hurt people. For instance, my classmates and friends. That student was armed so anything could have happened.

The debate of allowing guns to be purchased isn't the problem. It's who buys the gun, not the gun itself. If I had told that the student brought a gun to school, that would have triggered a nerve for them to actually use it, and put lives in danger. The student could have went after the people he showed first. That meant I would've been in danger or something worse could have happened. I would rather have my life at risk than my entire school or classmates. That could have been an outcome if I told administration. Sometimes telling isn't always the best solution to a real and serious situation. People could have been hurt and I don't think I could have lived with that. It would've been all my fault, and I probably couldn't live with myself if that actually happened.

When I saw the gun in the backpack, I admit I was scared but I showed no fear on the outside. You wouldn't believe at school your life is also in danger. School should be a place where you confide with your friends without being scared that you could get hurt, or worse. School should be a place to learn, hang out with friends and create memories. Not the horrifying memory of your friends, classmates, teachers, administration or even yourself being shot.

To purchase a gun, there should be a very detailed background check. I know some types of guns are required to have that. See if the person has a background of mental illness, which causes a lot of the school shootings. Some states don't follow this law and this could be a change that should happen.

— Kirsten Ford, 11th grade


The Problem Causing Tragedies

In the world we live in today, school shootings don't came as a surprise to us. Teenagers were born in a world where school shootings are a yearly thing. We go to school every day fearing if today will be the day that our school pops up on the news. We live in a world where violence is normal and talking things out is unheard of. As students, we shouldn't have to fear the simple act of going to school and learning. Quite honestly, we fear "when" we will have a school shooting not "if." Our society is so set on fighting with each other based on their political views that we are missing the real problem of this day and age.

As a teenager, I can hardly stand using social media. All I ever see on social media is people placing blame on other people based purely on their political affiliations. Why do people insist on placing the blame of tragic school shootings on the people that they grew up with? These people that we should be standing next to in this time of a nationwide conflict are the people we are, instead, pointing fingers at. We are so focused on finding someone to blame for this major problem that we aren't taking action against the real issue.

Instead of saying that it is this generation that is the problem, why don't we look at who created this generation. Teenagers are being raised by adults who don't pay attention to you, until you do something wrong. These people who are supposed to love and cherish you, are the same people who bully you and make you feel like less of a person. The major mental health epidemic has caused so much hurt that the average person is in a near constant state of mental pain, and that is where our society is failing.

As a student in high school, I can say that bullying by our peers and even our families, is a major problem that needs to be addressed. The amount of school shootings in the United States will rise drastically throughout the years if we continue to make no change. And until we as the people, take action toward helping our fellow acquaintances come out of the black hole that is poor mental health, then our students in all of these schools will never be safe and will fear a shooting more than they will want to learn.

— Elizabeth Wainwright, 11th grade

The Time for Change is Now

I'm a freshman in high school. When news came out about the Parkland shootings, I was still in school. It was second period and news got around pretty quick. It came up in conversations throughout the day but never really made it past that. When I got home I was watching the news like usual with my mom, but it was different today. Instead of the usual presidential nonsense, the channel was filled with videos of the shooting that happened earlier that day and grieving parents hurting beyond belief. I watched my mom's heart break more and more as we continued to watch the news for those 17 people who she had never met, because she knew that any of those kids could have been me. No mother should ever have to worry that when they send their kids to school, that they may never come home but, unfortunately, that's the reality of the world we live in. The world I grew up in. But it doesn't have to be the world my children grow up in.

At school the next day I couldn't get it off my mind. In Biology, the teacher was going through some lecture and I was bored to tears. My mind couldn't help but wander. As I  looked around the classroom, a couple things caught my eye. The black button at the back of the class, the one that we would use to call the office if anything went wrong. I noticed the wall at the back of the classroom filled with panel after panel of glass; it was earthquake proof but definitely not bulletproof. And then I saw the kid who sat at the back of the class, the one no one seemed to notice or pretended not to notice. I couldn't help but tear up a little because, honestly, it's just so disgusting. It's disgusting to think about all of the kids who lost their lives in the Parkland shootings, or any school shootings for that matter. Kids my age who woke up for school one day, and never came home. Kids who went to school one day under the reasonable assumption that they would be safe.

There are many things that kids have to worry about, some more than others, whether it be family issues, friend drama or a big test. But one thing that no kid should ever have to worry about is feeling safe at school. So I'm sick and tired of the excuses because there is no good excuse when it comes to the safety of our children. The time for change is now.

— Alexandra Clifford, ninth grade




Things Students Worry About

I have been in school for 11 years now and I have never had to worry about a school shooter until now. When I was younger, all I worried about was who I was going to play on the playground with or that it would hurt when my mom pulled out my tooth or whether or not the swings were going to be open. As you get older, you start to realize that there are more things to be worried about. A school shooter should not be one of them.

CNN said that there have already been 14 school shootings in 2018 and we are only three months in. Still to this day, nothing is being done. People may say that enforcing the gun laws and making it harder for people to get guns will fix the problem, but I find that hard to believe. The guns aren't at fault; the people are. The people who are wanting to kill others will still find a way to do so. They could use other weapons if they wanted to or they will still get a hand on a gun. The drinking age is 21, right? Kids underage still get alcohol. What makes people think that people won't get a gun if they really try?

Going to school everyday not knowing if there will be a shooter on campus is not a way I want to live nor will I want my kids when the time comes to grow up with that fear either. So let's make a change today. Why don't teachers have a gun in each classroom? Why don't we have cops or security guards on campus? If our teachers were prepared with their own guns then it would make everyone else feel safer. Our teachers just go in with the mindset that we are going to sit, be quiet and have things ready to throw while all of our windows and doors are locked. We should have a different more powerful plan rather than going in scared. A kid in one of my classes once said how he will be the one to distract the shooter or try and keep the door closed while everyone else runs out the back door. For a highschool kid to commit to being a martyr to save his peers means that there is something wrong with the world we live in. Clearly as of right now no one has come up with a logical solution so maybe we have to think out of the box to protect our lives now and in the future.

— Jada Bailey, 11th grade

Time for a Change

Every fall I walk into my first period class eager to start a new school year. I think about everything I am going to accomplish this year. The thought of an active shooter showing up on campus is one that never really crosses my mind. Everyone thinks it's never going to happen to them, but what happens when it does? We are taught to hide under our desk. We are taught to be silent. We are taught to run to the nearest open classroom if we are outside, but you better be fast because after that door is locked there is no chance of getting inside that classroom. We are taught to stay away from the windows that can't shield us from a bullet. We are taught to put our lives at risk because there is no way those small desks that high school students can't fit under could ever protect us.

What we are taught and what we should be taught are on two completely different spectrums. We should be told to grab a heavy object, like a book, to throw at the intruder if they enter the room. We should be told that we have a higher chance of survival if we overwhelm the attacker at the door with an object dense enough to injure them before they can injure us. We should have more meetings as a school to learn how to protect ourselves the best we can. Instead, we are taught to be sitting ducks with high hopes of making it out alive.

Teachers tell us if they die there is a black button right next to the door that immediately contacts the office if we need it. They tell us which key hanging from the lanyard around their neck will lock the door. Our teachers tell us that they will protect us the best they can in every situation. They'd rather be killed than have a student being in the line of fire. They tell us to stay as calm as we can even if your best friend was just shot right in front of you. If your teacher is dead that means the shooter has found a way to enter the room. If your teacher is dead, you probably are, too.

Our teachers never really talk about the possibility of a shooting happening at our school. It's only brought up when it happens somewhere that's not your school, because if we think about it too much, we will make ourselves paranoid. It's never going to happen at your school, right? No one will ever be able to answer that question with complete honesty. Something as simple as a meaningless threat, like a picture posted on Snapchat about a school in Virginia also referred to as "MHS," needs to be treated the same way as a very serious threat. If not treated seriously like it was at my school, it could've been our lives lost that day.

It's time that we come together as a nation to support every student. No matter what efforts are made by our teachers to support us academically, to mold us into the people that we are today and who we will be in the future, no matter how much we are told our safety is always going to be put first, we will always be left questioning whether or not we could actually survive an active shooter situation. The truth of the matter is that if an active shooter shows up on campus, no one will ever be absolutely positive that they will be able to properly protect themselves.

Kendra Turner, 11th grade

Walk Up, Not Out

On Feb. 14, 2018, 17 people were killed and 14 more injured in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The gunman, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, was a former student of the school who had been expelled for disciplinary reasons. The Parkland shooting was a very traumatic and upsetting experience for most people. It has caused many students to not feel safe at school and caused many more people to want better gun control.

Because of the shooting, thousands of students walked out at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes on March 14, 2018, to remember the 17 people that were killed, but what are they expecting to happen as a result of this walkout? Was the walkout intended to pressure congress to approve gun control legislation or to show sympathy to the 17 victims? My question, along with many others is, why walk out when you can walk up? Instead of abandoning our education for 17 minutes, why not make a change by walking up to 17 people or more throughout the day and saying something nice or helping them in any way.

School should be a safe place. Nobody should feel like an outcast or like they have no friends. I believe although Cruz may not have been in the best mental state, the students could have done something, whether it be talking to him or waving while they pass each other in the hall. I am in no way saying the students are the reason this happened or that they could stop a school shooter at all, but I believe kindness has a huge part in this incident.

Nikolas Cruz is not in the right mental state and should not have been allowed to own a gun for this reason and just for the fact that he is too young to need a semi automatic assault rifle. Before the shooting, Cruz made it very obvious he wanted to shoot up the school by his posts on Instagram and even by informing Trump he was going to.

Feeling picked on or teased at school makes you feel worthless and can make you go insane. Feeling alone in a school full of people can make you feel crazy, especially if you're not in the best mental state. I think there are so many starting points from this problem weather it be Congress allowing Cruz to own a gun with his mental illnesses or someone not making a big enough deal about the signs he showed prior to the shooting, to people just standing up and being nice. There are so many other things that could have been done to stop this.

Overall, students of America deserve to go to school everyday and feel that they are in a safe environment and one way to do this is to decrease the chances of school shootings by improving gun laws and also being nice to your classmates.

— Alexa Morehouse, ninth grade

Walk Up, Walk Out and Get Help

All anyone is saying lately is, "Maybe if kids would go up and talk to the quiet kid, or stand up for the kids getting bullied, there wouldn't be school shooting." I honestly disagree with this. As a student, I have seen kids getting bullied and some going up to quiet kids and I don't believe it helps. For example, I befriended someone. Let's call him "Smalls." He was always the quiet kid and got bullied a lot. I became friends with him and everything was good for a while. A couple years later, Smalls went down a different path. One day I saw Smalls and talked to him for a bit. He told me he joined a gang. I figured by the outfit he was wearing. A couple weeks went by and I got a phone call from my mom telling me that one of my friends shot and killed someone and was wanted and she told me it was Smalls. He was found dead a few days later. Yeah, he may not have shot up a school but he did take a different path and did shoot and kill someone. I was friends with him. I stood up for him when he was bullied and he still shot someone. It's mental health problems, not bullying. I'm not sticking up for bullying or anything but I just don't think it's always the case in school shootings or shootings in general.

I do think kids should stand up for other kids getting bullied and talk to quiet kids, not because they think they may one day shoot up their school but because it's the human thing to do. It's the nice thing to do. Imagine you're getting bullied, maybe they are beating you up, wouldn't you want someone to help you? I really believe that school shootings happen because people have mental health issues, not because they are getting bullied. Being bullied could be a factor in this, too, but I don't think it's the main thing. I also feel that kids shouldn't bully, but that honestly has to start with parents. If parents would teach their kids better, or at least punish their kids when they find out they are bullying others, bullying wouldn't happen so much.

In conclusion, people need to stop blaming the bystanders that aren't standing up for victims getting bullied or going over to the quiet kids for the reason schools are getting shot up. Schools are being shot up because kids have mental health issues and aren't getting the help they need. Going back to my story, I feel like I did everything I, as a student and as a friend, could have done for Smalls. He just needed to get help for his mental health. Walk up, walk out but also get help for the kids with mental health issues. This is obviously overlooked by a majority of people. If people keep turning the other cheek, this problem will not end. It will just get worse and worse.

— Ruben Salguero, 11th grade



What if it was Different?

As a new student to Mckinleyville High, I was first drawn to the acceptance from the students. I was welcomed with open arms and this reflects the community as well. My new home has without a doubt become one I will never forget. Although this past year has been filled with joy, there has always been those "What ifs" stuck in the back of my mind and I think of them every morning. What if I leave for school and don't return home? What if I watch my classmate get shot and killed right next to me? What if my teacher risks his or her life to save the 30 of us hiding behind desks, books and anything that could potentially save us? No student or teacher should be worried about an active shooting happening on his or her campus, we should feel safe and protected at a place we spend seven-plus hours, five days a week.

In my hometown I was faced with a true lockdown and in the moment I didn't know what to think. One of my fellow students brought a gun to school but as it was happening, no one knew exactly what was going on. I'm never going to forget the siren that blasted through campus early in the morning warning us that it was not a drill. I remember sprinting to my teacher's back room, shoving and pushing between my friends though a small doorway. Twenty-eight of us were crowded in a small room, sitting there in silence, some teary eyed. We texted friends in other classes to see if they knew anything but everyone said something different. I didn't text any of my family members because I was too scared to face the reality. I kept telling myself it was going to be OK and nothing was going to happen, even when I didn't know the full truth. A little over two hours later, our principal informed everyone that it was safe to leave, no one was hurt and the kid was arrested. Thankfully, nothing happened to anyone, but that isn't the case for the majority of schools that have a student who brings a gun to the campus. No one should have to go through this experience in school, no one should have to think about where they're going to hide when they hear those sirens. School should be a safe place for anyone who attends, not a place where we have to decide if we're going to crowd together and pray the shooter doesn't come into our room or be the hero that confronts them hoping to save everyone else while risking their lives.

We come to class everyday stressed about the homework we didn't get done the night before, the test we have second period or the sports game that could decide our future. We should only be faced with problems like those in our schools, but instead we have the constant fear of "what if." As students, we are the ones who have to suffer with these thoughts, we are the ones who know how it feels and it's time for us to stop worrying about what might happen, but what if we didn't have to worry? What if our schools were places we didn't have to be scared in? We are the future, and enough is enough.

— Traci Millager, 11th grade

Why More People Should be Carrying Guns

Gun control is a sensitive subject in America. There are many people who want stricter gun control or even the complete banning of guns, while others oppose the banning laws. The solution to gun violence isn't to ban guns but, rather, to give training to people willing to go through a concealed carry course or help them get proper education on gun safety. More than 95 percent of mass shootings are committed in gun-free zones. These areas are targets because there is little retaliation against the shooter and by the time the police arrive on scene the damage has already been done. To prevent more shootings at schools, the banning of guns is not the proper way to go about it. Instead, teachers who already have concealed carry licenses should be allowed to carry on campus. Also, teachers who want to be trained in firearm safety and get a concealed carry license should be able to get funding from the school. If people knew the teachers were armed and trained, they would be less likely to enter with a gun or other weapon because they would know that they would get stopped quickly. Even if the shooter still decided to shoot, the teachers would be able stop them before mass damage could be done. With an IWB (inside the waistband) holster, you could have it hidden beneath your clothes preventing students from getting it as well as being able to quickly pull it out if needed.

The Parkland shooting wasn't the fault of the gun but, instead, it was the fault of the law enforcement and local FBI office. There were more than 20 reports to law enforcement about Cruz's obsession with guns, violence and becoming a school shooter. The officer on scene also went against protocol and didn't enter the building Cruz was in. The lack of action by the law enforcement and not forwarding the reports to the FBI where proper action could have been taken to prevent this tragedy was part of the reason it happened. Banning guns would not solve this problem. People would find ways to get guns illegally and law abiding citizens couldn't stop them. The reason that the Sutherlands Springs shooter was stopped was because of a citizen legally carrying a gun. He became the NRA's hero after the shooting to show that not all guns are bad and, with proper training, they can save lives.

— Ian Trump, 11th grade

Guns and Why They're Important

I am tired of going to school and being afraid of being murdered. I do not want to be left defenseless to a maniac with a gun. I am tired of not having some sort of defense from a man with a weapon. I am tired of not being able to fully focus on my studies because of the fear of death. I am tired of being tired. I am tired of liberals using school shootings to stir up fears to disarm the working class while not realizing the bigger problems of our oppressive school system and alienation from society. I am tired of conservatives who blame and vilify mentally ill people who are used as scapegoats while the real problem is their surroundings and their inability to access  free mental health care.

The Second Amendment states that "a well regulated militia" is "necessary to the security of a free State" and that "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." This means that the government cannot take away weapons or ban them without violating the Constitution. Any banning of guns is unconstitutional. If the government starts banning guns, they're just asking for a dictatorship (or planning one). In World War II, the leader of Japan said he wouldn't invade because there would be a rifle behind every blade of grass. Guns protect us from all invaders, foreign and domestic.

I have heard the question "Why do you need an assault rifle?" over and over again, and the answer is quite simple. I don't. It is not a need, it is a right, just like you don't need freedom of religion or speech, just like you don't need freedom from slavery, just like you don't need a fair and speedy trial. All of these things are rights.

There is very little that can be done to stop an unstable, wealthy man from getting ahold of a firearm, whether it be a father's gun cabinet not properly being locked, having no prior known mental health issues, or having prior known mental health issues and simply going to a gun show. There are only three things that can help to prevent school shootings before they happen and stop them quickly when they occur: education on weapons, early access to mental healthcare and armed schools.

Schools, movie theaters, nightclubs and concerts are targeted for most for these tragedies. Why? They have many people in close quarters and very little to no security. The only way to stop these tragedies is to increase the security and arm the people.

— Will Clark, 11th grade

Education is Key

I started hunting when I was 11. I knew at that age the responsibility of having a gun in my hand, and even just having some in the safe at home. My father always promoted our Second Amendment rights. I grew up being taught that guns kill, but guns also protect. You're not always going to have time for police to show up when there's an intruder in your home, you need to learn to defend yourself. It is our right to wield a gun whether for hunting or protection.

Not all people are responsible or coordinated enough to have a gun, like we should have more thorough testing for a license, police background checks, mental stability (if anything runs in the family), before allowing someone to buy any type of gun. But those who are qualified should have the choice of carrying.

Having a gun-free zone is more dangerous than an armed teacher. Gun free means an easy target. Just because there's a law to ban assault rifles, does not mean people can't buy them. That just makes it illegal. But that won't make a difference to people. Drugs are illegal and people still have the ability to obtain drugs. Laws don't make a difference to someone who wants something.

The federal government has intervened multiple times while trying to make our country and schools safe. Doing so, they have sparked controversy on whether or not the new laws are infringements upon the people's rights. Disarming law abiding citizens has shown to have failed many times. Before such laws were implemented, including the Assault Weapons Ban of 1986, the Gun-Free School Zone Act in 1990 and the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994, the rate of school and mass shootings was far lower than today. The push for an assault weapons ban and minimal age raise has been a controversial topic for decades, not only due to the questionability of it being unconstitutional, but also the effectiveness of yet another ban. The FBI stated in 2012 that there were a total of 8,855 total firearm related homicides, 6,371 of those were handguns.

I know some people believe "nobody needs guns" but that doesn't stop a man from coming into your home with one, does it? How is one to protect his or herself from a shooter? Run? Hide? Whether you run or hide, there's the possibility you aren't running fast enough. Or there is nowhere to hide. Wouldn't you want a gun to protect yourself rather than to be defenseless? I know if I was in danger I would want a gun to defend myself. People should teach their children the responsibility of owning a gun and educate them on the needs for one as well as how to use one.

— Kylie Jones, 11th grade

Gun Fever: The Ease of Getting a Gun

We are only in the third month of 2018 and the amount of times I've heard about a school shooting is ridiculous. There have been at least 14 school shootings in America, according to CNN. Most of these shootings were done by 15 year olds. How in the holy heck do 15 year olds get ahold of a gun? Parents and illegal gun dealers(IGD), that's how. The fact that there have been arguments about changing the gun laws is nuts; our gun laws are just fine but we need to start enforcing them.

Parents do not put their firearms away properly because it's easier to get to if it's on the nightstand loaded, just in case someone breaks into your house. I totally understand why you would put the gun there, but you, as a parent, need to make sure no one can get ahold of your firearm unless it's you or your partner. So how can parents stop school shootings? You need to put your firearm in a safe. Talk to your student; ask them about their school life. Are they getting bullied? Is everything at school going great? Do you feel like you have friends that will stand up for you? All those question are 1,000 percent acceptable.

In places like Los Angeles or Florida, two places where shootings have happened this year, it's super easy for a 15 year old to go buy a gun from a IGD. In the show Shameless, there is an episode where Carl is selling guns out of the school bathroom. Students and teachers were buying these guns. The episode show students how easy it is to get illegal guns. So how can we as a society stop school shootings? Stop making shows that make it look easy to get a gun and start making it look hard to get one. The fact of the matter is when you go to get, let's say a handgun, you need to pass a gun safety test, then you pick the firearm you want and you have to pass a background check, but that's not when you get the physical gun. You get the gun after a 10-day "cooling off" period; it's such a hard process and I didn't give you all the steps. It's honestly not guns fault people die, it's the fault of our society making it look easy to reach guns by showing IGD .

Last year at Fortuna High, there was a bomb threat. A student heard a rumour that at least two students were going to try to bomb the school pep rally. The student who heard this rumour went and talked to a teacher. Then the teacher and student took the information to the school's vice principal and the school took care of the rest. But what if the student didn't tell the teacher about the rumor? We would have had the rally and could have been bombed. Yes, it was mustard gas, and it would have hurt the students puting the bomb together before it hurt any other student, but it's the thought of having a bomb go off when the whole school was in one place. That's what scared us the most.

Ever since 2018 started and all these shootings happened, parent are scared to send their kids to school. No one should be afraid of going to school to get shot or bombed, but it's the reality we have been living. Fortuna High is lucky to have a campus supervisor and this year we added a School Resource Officer (SRO). If schools make it easier to talk to an adult, there will hopefully be a decrease in school shootings.

We as a country cannot change the gun laws and expect that there would be less gun-related attacks. Changing the gun laws would make it harder to get a gun, yes, but people who want to hurt people would find a way to get guns. It will make it easier to get an illegal gun. Law abiding citizens will have a harder time getting guns but a criminal won't. Let me make this clear: Illegal gun dealers are still a thing!!! No matter how strict the gun laws are, there will still be gangs who deal illegal guns to people. My argument is enforce the gun laws we have and to make those laws nationwide. Parents need to check up on their students to see how they doing emotionally in school and to keep their kids on track, no matter how difficult it is. We don't need more gun laws that are just going to go unnoticed. Teach students the dangers of guns but also the good in guns. We don't need people afraid of guns; we need people aware of the power of guns.

— Julia Lowry
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