Protect Kids, Not Guns

Katherine Portillo, Photographer

In the year 2018 I was a freshman at Downey High School, there are not many details I remember about this year, however I do remember this was when I first became aware and fully comprehended what a school shooting was. Within the first 21 weeks of 2018, 23 mass school shootings had been recorded. 2018 was named “the worst year for US school shootings”. This for me, was when my anxiety about the topic first began.


Feb. 14th, 2018 started as any other Valentine’s Day in Parkland, Florida. It was the last period of the day as students of Stoneman Douglas Highschool were packing up when an ex student (who was expelled) entered campus and opened gunfire, ultimately killing 17 people and injuring many more. This had become the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook in 2007.


This was the first big school shooting I could remember. I had heard a few stories and read bits about Sandy Hook and Columbine however I never really looked into them too well. Finding out about Parkland, I was completely devastated, I remember coming home and my mother was glued to the TV, the headline read something along the lines of  “17 dead in mass shooting, suspect not in custody yet”


The next few days in school were very strange. No one really wanted to speak on the subject. however, everyone knew we needed to. This week was taught us how to handle this situation if it were us, as well as protocol. We watched many videos and practiced how to act if our school were to go on lockdown. As this is a very good, it was also very traumatizing for many students like myself. It really got me thinking about whether my school was next in line for a shooting. The following month, a nationwide “walk out” was scheduled for Mar. 14th, exactly a month after the incident, in protest of our current gun rights in America.


After a school shooting happens, we often learn the gunman is mentally ill and has struggled with mental health issues in the past. The question of however is, how does this mentally ill person have access to any sort of gun? Why does it seem so easy purchase one? On June 16th, 2016, CNN put out an article about what things are more difficult than buying a gun. In this article they speak about how purchasing a gun is easier than adopting a puppy, getting a divorce, and getting a driver’s license.


Finishing my freshman year and following into my sophomore year my anxiety about a school shooting had increased tremendously. I was too scared to go to school most days, my parents had no other choice but to keep me at home these days and because of this,it started to affect my learning. The days I was still going to school, I was strategically picking where I sat, I would try to find a spot where I was not in full view from the door and had a very accessible hiding spot near me in case of an emergency. I would also never go to the restroom during class (no matter how bad I needed to) in case we were to go on lockdown while I was in the restroom. As well, I privately ask my teachers to lock the door and cover any spot that can be seen from outside the class.


During my sophomore year, I was leaving my third period class, on my way to my friends classroom to pick her up so we could go to lunch. When all of a sudden an announcement was made that we are on lockdown and to get into the nearest classroom. I remember completely freezing in the middle of the crowded hallway. Thankfully my friend knew about my anxiety and pulled me into the class she just came from. Running inside the classroom my friend made room for me in the corner and immediately began to try and calm me down. I was so focused on texting my parents that I was OK that I didn’t realize how the rest of the class was reacting. The teacher had already locked the door, turned off the lights, and a few students began to stack desks in front of the door. After this, everyone stood in the corner not visible from the window as we waited. We still had no clue why we were on lockdown but no one wanted to know. After what felt like hours (turned out to only be about 10 minutes) we were given the all clear to return to normal. It turned out there was some sort of altercation across the street and the police station alerted our principal to go on lockdown for safe measures. 


When my junior year rolled around, my anxiety was in full swing (maybe at it worse due to my sort of obsessive habit to constantly be researching this topic) but March 2020, everything changed. The United States was placed under quarantine due to the Corona Virus outbreak. Everything flipped upside down, we were not able to leave our houses, the mask mandate was brand new, and no one was allowed to go to school or work. This was the start to online learning. I personally am not a fan of virtual learning however, I was very thankful I no longer had to worry about any sort of mass shooting. For a full year, my anxiety on this subject had gone away.


For me, The way I knew COVID was ending was by the return of mass shootings. The month of March 2021, over 48 mass shootings had been recorded. The following month, President Joe Biden proposed “the most ambitious gun-control agenda” any President ever has. In these enforcements, Biden wants to ban any sort of assault weapon, create harder background checks for anyone purchasing a gun, and enforce a gun buyback program. 


As this is a very small step towards better gun control, it is still a start and makes me very hopeful for the future. No child should have to go to school with the concern they will never return home. No parent should have to drop their child off at school and hope that isn’t the last goodbye to the. Our government should be protecting children, not assault rifles that are made to kill other humans.