KARI GOTTFRIED & EVELIA ZAPIEN RAMOS
On April 20, 1999, a day CHS students can’t even remember, two teenage boys entered Columbine High in Littleton, CO with guns in their hands and hate in their heads. At the end of their shooting spree, with thirteen dead and many more injured, they turned the guns on themselves and died by suicide. For years, this was the deadliest school shooting in history.
On December 14, 2012, a man entered Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, and fatally shot twenty children, all under the age of seven, as well as six adult staff members, before killing himself. Columbine slid to third place (after the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting which left 33 dead).
Closer to home: On October 1, 2015, a man killed eight students and an assistant professor at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, OR, and then killed himself. The UCC shooting displaced many other tragedies as it slid up to fourth place in deadliest school shootings since Columbine.
These are just three of the many school shootings that have occurred over our lifetimes. USA Today calls us “the Columbine Generation” because we’ve all grown up facing the very real danger of school shootings. We’re well-versed in the logistics of lockdown drills, but what happens if we’re at an assembly? Or out around campus at lunch? What about during a passing period, or the end of the school day? What about a fire drill, surrounded by a large gate with only a few exits?
Last month, the Columbine shooting lost its unwanted award for the deadliest high school shooting. In Parkland, Florida, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High (better known as MSD), a former MSD student, only 19, opened fire on students and staff at the school. In the end, seventeen people were killed.
It was Ash Wednesday, and Valentine’s Day, but that didn’t matter, especially not to those who lost their loves & those who lost their lives.
This is the type of story that falls upon the numbed visage of the American population. We’ve been through this over and over and over again, and the fact that we have become desensitized to these atrocious acts of violence is frightening. School is supposed to be a safe environment; it is not supposed to be a combat field. Yet here we are “shocked” and “surprised” — but why should we be? We are not shocked, we can’t be shocked, that yet another school shooting has taken place.
As a student, the thought always lingers in the back of our minds: what if we’re next? Politicians continue to tell us that now is not the time to talk about gun control reform. That we need to remain silent. We have remained in that vicious cycle for years now: a shooting, political debate, “send your thoughts and prayers”, nothing happens, repeat. While “thoughts and prayers” are a comfort, they do not engender change. The students and families of America want change. We want to prevent another massacre from happening. So in a sense, these politicians were right. The time to talk about gun control should not have been now. It should have been months ago, it should have been years ago.
Although lawmakers in Florida and at the federal level have failed to make the changes we demand (yet), our own state legislature is making a difference right now. According to The Statesman Journal, Oregon was the first state to have its legislature pass a gun control measure since the MSD shooting. The bill closed the “boyfriend loophole” in a 2015 law preventing domestic abusers from buying guns that didn’t include all types of domestic abusers, like people who abuse partners they don’t live with. Although every step forward is important, gun control supporters believe that measures need to be taken to a federal level, or implemented in every state. While gun control laws in Oregon certainly keep us safer, they can’t do anything about our fellow students across the country, in states like Florida where the state House rejected a ban on many semi-automatic guns and large capacity magazines less than a week after the shooting in Parkland, FL.
Progress comes slowly, but as we near the twentieth anniversary of Columbine, and we wake up every day wondering what we might hear on the news, a little more hope is lost.
This time, maybe it will be different. Why? Because finally, students have had enough. Survivors from MSD are calling on students across the country to stand with them as they demand action from lawmakers.
On Wednesday, March 14th, students across the country will be leaving their classes at 10am and gathering together. Corvallis High students have organized a walkout; there is more information about it at actionnetwork.org/events/enough-corvallis.
On Saturday, March 24th, MSD students and supporters will be marching on Washington, D.C., in the “March for Our Lives”. They encourage students from across the country to host their own marches, and student organizers in Corvallis are also in planning for this. There is more information at facebook.com/marchforourlivescorvallis. The youth organizers have also started a GoFundMe to raise money for permits, insurance, and other march-related expenses.
At #Enough Corvallis, the walkout at CHS on March 14th, students will gather together for seventeen minutes, one for every life lost at MSD. We’re gathering on the football field, to honour the lives lost in Parkland — but we don’t need more moments of silence, we need moments of action. Stay tuned on Facebook for more ways to get involved.