Gun violence is a paramount issue for K-12 students and parents.
It’s been almost a year since the horrific mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX, and it’s only been a few days since the latest mass shooting that happened at an outlet mall in Allen, TX., one of Dallas’s most diverse suburbs.
According to recent Pew Research Poll, the number of kids killed by gun violence is up 50% from 2019-2021, and over half of those deaths were homicides. Plus, according to the K-12 School Shooting Database, school shootings increased eight times from 2019 to 2020, increasing yearly since.
The founder of the K-12 School Shooting Database, David Riedman, says the country is on pace to see a record number of school shootings in 2023, with the US is on track to hit about 400 this year. Last year we experienced 303.
Students in Texas Not Being Heard
One Texas student, Ryley Collins, who’s involved with the student advocacy group Students Demand Action, which advocates against gun violence, says even though she goes to school in a privileged area, she’s scared of gun violence. “For someone like me to feel scared to go to school is a big thing. It just shows you the reach of gun violence,” Collins says.
In April, Students Demand Action had several chapters in the Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) area that participated in a walkout after two shootings at local schools. Some school administrators won’t show public support for the protests, and students don’t believe they’re being heard.
Neve Healy, a high school student in Dallas, says she feels residue from the shootings daily, “I think every student can say the same from anywhere in America — because we have the potential to be affected by it.”
Sophomore Brynn Beecham founded her school’s Students Demand Action chapter after three different lockdowns due to false alarms. “I’m nervous walking in every day because I don’t know if I’m going to be able to walk out,” she says.
Kanu likes to go to Allen Premium Outlets on most weekends and was considering going that fateful Saturday; however, she decided to relax on her couch instead, which might have saved her life.
Locals describe Allen as tranquil with a family feel, and the outlet mall is typically “the place to be” on weekends for many residents. Kanu says, “That feeling of safety is gone. It’s shattered. I don’t know when I will feel safe again if something like this can happen in this small community.”
Leah Wittsche, the mother of a one and three-year-old, also considered heading to the mall on May 6 but decided to take her kids to visit grandma instead, says, “My viewpoint of this town is different now. If I go to the library, are we safe there? If I go to the grocery store, are we safe there? “We are not safe anywhere. We don’t know … anything can happen at any time.”
Is There a Solution?
The easy answer is yes. Get rid of guns or evoke stricter gun laws. However, that’s not easy, and in Texas, it’s more challenging than almost anywhere else in the US.
Texas resident Steven Spainhouer is a supporter of the Second Amendment and a gun owner. However, he demands Governor Abbott do something about assault weapons and gun violence in Texas.
“I hear our governor talking about mental health issues. We’re always going to have mental health issues. But if we don’t do something about the guns, the ‘people-killing’ guns, then we’re going to continue to have the same thing happen,” Spaihouer says.
“Until we take some definite actions, we’re changing the narrative about it being just a mental health issue and start doing something about the guns,” he added.
Gov. Abbott says there’s an increase in anger and violence, and “The long-term solution here is to address the mental health issue.” The day after the Allen shooting, he said, “What Texas is doing in a big-time way, we are working to address that anger and violence but going to its root cause, which is addressing the mental health problems behind it.”
Many Texas residents want more gun laws in place, while most lawmakers say they don’t believe that will stop the issue, and that may be true. However, studies and experts from various fields say banning large-capacity magazines and raising the age to purchase a gun legally from 18 to 21 can limit fatalities in mass shootings.
Texas residents no longer feel safe in schools, malls, libraries, or public places. Kids aren’t able to concentrate on their studies and wonder if they’ll even make it home on any given afternoon.