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Aiming for Change

Karen Larinova

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Despite EPHS being across the country from Parkland, Florida, EP students have been speaking out against gun violence and the many school shootings that have taken place in the U.S.

According to CNN, there have been about 17 school shootings this year, averaging about one every week. The shooting in Parkland was one of them, but the students who go to Stoneman Douglas began a movement that made the entire country discuss guns laws, school safety and mental health.

The 17 people who died at Stoneman Douglas on Feb. 14 sparked outrage from specifically students across the country. Teenagers, such as students from EP, have organized protests and clubs to combat school shootings.

EPHS juniors Alexa Tessman and Natalie Harrison created the Change is Coming club to spread information about how to get involved in politics and how to protest. They, along with other dedicated EPHS students, planned the March 14 walkout at EP, coordinated with the national walkout.

At 10 a.m. on March 14, students walked out of the school through the East entrance. The crowd chanted and held signs to protest school shootings. The walkout lasted 17 minutes, ending with a moment of silence while the victims’ names were read aloud.

While students, teachers and parents are participating in protests around the country, a majority of these protests are led and dominated by students. About 600-700 students participated in the EPHS walkout.

“We were showing our legislators that we will not be ignored while still giving respect to those lost in Florida,” said Tessman.

The club was created to get students politically active on the topic of gun violence, but the club leaders are planning on expanding Change is Coming into other issues.

According to Jen Kirby of Vox, close to a million students participated in the walk out around the country. Another walkout is scheduled for April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting.

Although the protests are garnering national attention, little action has come from the lawmakers in Congress. The governor of Florida, Rick Scott, raised the sale age of firearms from 18 to 21, but major bills have not yet been passed or widely debated in Congress.

In addition, President Donald Trump’s recent proposals for gun regulation and the arming of teachers has not made any progress in Congress, either.

Although the outcomes of the protests are hardly tangible at this point, EPHS students are still hopeful that progress will happen.

“We started Change is Coming because we no longer wanted to sit around and say, ‘I wish we could do something’ or ‘I wish something would change,’” said Tessm

 

Student Opinions

Sophia Sailer, sophomore

I believe that if machine guns and/or any guns other than hunting guns were not sold, it could help. There should also be more restrictions on getting licenses to be able to buy a gun.

 

Camari Rodgers, freshman

Eight shootings. The United States has already had eight school shootings in 2018, and that is a clear sign that something needs to change.

The biggest change that needs to be made is the strengthening of gun laws. There should be no reason that people who are obviously not mentally healthy are allowed to have guns. The federal law allows anyone over 18 years of age to own a shotgun or a rifle and anyone over 21 years of age to own a handgun. I think it is completely insane that people that are not even allowed to consume alcohol are allowed to own shotguns and rifles.

The second thing that I believe should be done is to have armed officers in the school. I know some people may believe that having any types of guns in a school is not right, but I believe that school shootings are happening partly because the shooters know that the students will have no way of defending themselves until the police are alerted and at the scene.

Recently, we all heard about the shooting that occurred in Florida. That high school in Parkland, Florida, was reported to be one of the safest schools in the state. To me, this shows that even in the safest of places, there could still be that one person that could change everything.

Eden Prairie High School is a school we all feel safe in and at home. Now imagine that being taken away from you because a gun fell into the hands of the wrong person. Now I understand that some people do not agree with strengthening gun laws, but I believe that the lives of your fellow classmates, your friends, are a lot more important than your love of guns.

 

Brian Samuel, freshman

As the nation recovers from the devastating Valentine’s Day shooting that resulted in the death of 17 innocent people, adults and teens alike gather together in search of a solution to this problem which has plagued schools for years.

I believe that schools across the country are unprepared for the possibility of a school shooting. We have to realize that restricting firearm ownership alone will not help protect our schools. Criminals are, by definition, law breakers who will find another way to bring death and destruction through legal or illegal means.

Our first priority should be to harden our schools with armed security guards. The only thing that will stop a shooter is a person armed and ready to defend the school. Our very own school would not fare well in the case of a shooting as all of our security guards are unarmed, and the two police liaisons are quite far away from the majority of the students.

One of the easiest ways to help harden and protect our school would be to find responsible men and women who are licensed, adept and proficient in the use of firearms and hire them to protect students at our school. This is a simple and common sense solution that both sides can agree on because, in the end, our objective should by no means be to bicker and blame one another but rather to formulate policy that accomplishes the shared goal of ensuring a safe learning environment for all students.

 

Rachel Wagner, freshman

I now live in a world where I have to wonder if I’m going to survive my day of school. It’s disgusting we even have to think about that, and it ends now.

We have had guns for hundreds of years, and only now is the problem of school shootings arising. This means that the people owning the guns are the problem. We need to put a stop to these people, and I think the way we do that is by never letting them get a gun in the first place. By requiring extensive background checks and long waiting periods, these people won’t ever get the chance to shoot anyone. The background checks we have now let a 19-year-old kid with mental illness and a history of violence get ahold of a gun and kill 17 people. Something needs to change.

The proposal to train and arm teachers with guns has the good intention of keeping the students safe but will cause more harm than good. If there are set guns in the school, casualties will certainly happen. Even if the teachers are trained, accidents will most likely occur, possibly resulting in the accidental shooting of a student. I personally feel less safe in a school with more guns in it, and I don’t think we should make plans to stop a shooter when he’s in the building but instead make plans to stop him from ever getting that opportunity.  

 

Matteo Meloni, junior

Making guns more difficult to buy should be the first thing. Also to prevent strangers from get close to the schools, surround them with a fence so that the school has just a few access points that are easier to control.

 

Gabi Pittinger, sophomore

If the shooter in Parkland had walked into the high school with a handgun, fewer people would have died. Arming teachers with guns would be even worse than doing nothing. A teacher shooting would only create more crossfire, leaving more students injured or killed; a teacher having a gun would not stop a shooter from walking onto campus and claiming a life.

The only way we can stop a shooter is by making it more difficult for them to buy weapons. While I acknowledge our Second Amendment right, we should not have access to a military-style weapon meant to kill as many people as possible. We, as civilians, cannot buy grenades; why are we allowed to buy military-style guns?  We need to ban guns meant to kill large amounts of people and create a stricter process for people to obtain firearms. No one’s right to have a gun is bigger than our right to feel safe and survive the day at school.

Mental health is an issue, but it is not the main problem in this epidemic. Every other country has people with mental health issues, violent movies and video games, yet the U.S. is the country that has so many school shootings.

We need gun reform and to finally put children’s lives ahead of the ability to purchase military weapons. We have the constitutional right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” and my life is more important than allowing anyone to own an AR-15.

 

Laurie Nebeker, English teacher, “Questions for March 14th

You’re walking out to make a difference.  What difference will you make when you walk back in?

If you’re willing to cross the campus to have your protest heard, are you also willing to cross the classroom and include that kid who wasn’t asked to join a group?

You’ve learned about an issue.  Will you also learn about those kids sitting at the edges of the lunchroom?

You demand a safe school.  Will you also demand that everyone’s name and reputation are safe with you and your friends?

You should be heard.  So I hope you will also listen to those without loud voices and to those whose voices seem too loud.

You’ve embraced a cause.  I hope you will embrace the vulnerable and the disconnected.  Weave them securely into the fabric of our school so that no one is torn from us in violence.

 

Erik Duxstad, junior

The United States has long been promoted as the country of personal freedoms. Far more individualistic than the comparatively socialist Europe, the culture promoted in the United States has led to individual freedoms being worn as a badge of honor.

The gun control debate strikes a dagger to the heart of those that promote individual freedom. To them, arguments for gun control are not argument or logic, but an attack on their ideals and way of life. The accusations and falsehoods thrown around in the crossfire hide the real solution of compromise. Too many blind themselves into thinking the answer is one extreme or another without seeing the middle ground.

Real solutions come from discussion and mutuality, not one side becoming victorious over the defeat of the other. In the gun control debate, the aggregate of America will come together to discover a solution. Progress will be made when we accept our differences and move past them, not wage ideological war over them. A gun control solution must come as a collaboration between parties that respects everyone, not a partisan solution taken to the extreme.

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