I Should Not Be Afraid

Sarah Bhownalal, Staff Writer

I am a 17 year old girl who wants nothing more than a good education and friends that care about me. I shouldn’t need to worry about the safety of those friends while they are in school with only the pure intention to learn.

The morning of Wednesday, February 14th, was an average morning. Nothing seemed wrong. As I walked to my locker, my best friend’s cousin saw me and wished me a Happy Valentines Day. I considered texting my friend at that moment, but decided against it as I did not want to be late to class. The day dragged on and I barely touched my phone.

That became my biggest regret.

I arrived home a bit early that day, maybe around 2:20. I took a nap after school, expecting to wake up to a peaceful house with motivation to study. Instead, I awoke to notifications on my phone that immediately had me sick to my stomach.

“Breaking news- Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting.”

I continued scrolling in disbelief, praying that I was still asleep. As I scrolled further, it dawned on me..my best friend goes to that school. I couldn’t bring myself to think anymore. I froze. Time froze. The thought that she was one of the growing numbers of fatalities sickened me. I didn’t know what to do. As my scrolling of my morbid notifications continued, I came upon a text from a mutual friend of ours that my phone received an hour after I had fallen asleep.

My best friend was alive and okay, but her friends were not. She had been one hallway away as two of her own friends were being shot in the leg.

It was Valentine’s Day…a day meant to show love and affection for the people you care about the most. Why did 17 innocent people need to die?

The shooter, Nikolas Cruz, had been a former student of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Last year, at the age of 18, Cruz purchased one of his 10 rifles that he legally owns. Cruz was still a mentally unstable teenager, yet he was allowed to own a gun. Anyone who knew him was afraid he would become violent one day, yet they all allowed him to keep his guns. If something had been done, if he did not have possession of these guns, none of this would have happened.

Since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, there have been over 1,600 mass shootings in America. During these six years, almost 2,000 lives have been lost to mass shootings in the country. In Japan, it is rare for there to be more than 10 deaths caused by guns in a single year. This recent shooting has already exceeded what is deemed normal in Japan. In fact, there were only 6 deaths caused by guns in Japan in 2014, while there were 33,599 (individual and mass shootings included) in the United States.  Why? Japan has enforced very strict gun control laws, while the U.S. allows teenagers to purchase firearms.

Maybe our country should reconsider our laws.

The United States as a whole should amend its gun laws to protect its citizens. Not only for the young students, but for every innocent life in America. Speaking as a teen, I believe it is extremely unsafe for a firearm to be in an 18-year-old’s possession. Teenagers are still very unpredictable and can have outbursts of anger, leading to violence. A gun in the hands of someone who is unstable will only lead to harm. Therefore, if the age requirement is raised to at least 21 years of age, that will eliminate some potential threats. In addition, a mental health test should be taken as a part of gun registration and it should be renewed every year or two. If this were already a requirement, maybe the 17 innocents in Parkland, Florida would still be alive today.

If you feel unsafe, believe our country’s gun laws should be changed, or simply advocate for the safety of the innocent, then you should join the thousands on Saturday, March 24th. There will be a “March for Our Lives” in both New York City and Washington, D.C.