There Should Never Be Another Parkland: A College Student’s Perspective on Gun Reform

Thousands take the streets in Washington D.C. for March for Our Lives on March 24, 2018. Photo: Michael Reynolds/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock
Thousands take the streets in Washington D.C. for March for Our Lives on March 24, 2018. Photo: Michael Reynolds/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

Being on a college campus, I find myself constantly on edge. Before the Parkland shooting, it was a lingering fear in the back of my mind, rearing its ugly head whenever someone seemed just a bit off. But now it’s prevalent—the Parkland survivors are calling for a movement, for gun reform and tighter security. We don’t deserve to forget what happened to every child, every student who has ever lost their life to a school shooter.

And all I can wonder now is if I’m next.

With the current lack of gun control throughout most of America, I have a hard time mitigating the fear that a person with a gun will walk onto my campus and shoot everyone they can find. And while anger currently weaves throughout our society, we still aren’t making any significant headway with gun reform.

After Parkland, it’s increasingly more evident that students can no longer just be concerned about passing classes, getting enough sleep, doing their homework, and acing tests all while managing to have friends. There’s a constant fear, wondering what will happen if someone with a gun walks through the front doors of the school. Kids could leave in the morning, get on the bus, and never come home.

A few extra steps to keep students from getting shot, killed, and traumatized shouldn’t be controversial—not when teachers in the Parkland shooting lost their lives saving students. Student Sam Zeif, was one floor apart from his younger brother Matthew during the shooting. They texted each other to make sure the other was alive. That’s when Sam found out that Matthew’s teacher, Scott Beigel, was dead in the doorway.

“My little brother was the last person that Scott Beigel saved,” Sam said in an interview. “I never realized how life could take [Matthew] away from me. I never thought we could be in a situation where we would have to worry about that.”

No one ever thinks they’ll be in a situation where they have to hide from a shooter. I study at Champlain College in Burlington, VT, six hours away from my home. I don’t get to say goodbye to my parents each morning—I’m lucky if I even have the time to text them every day. If a shooter were to walk through the doors of my class, I’m not sure what I would do.

University buildings are designed to look aesthetically pleasing, not to defend against a shooter. And they shouldn’t have to be. Construction workers and architects shouldn’t have to factor in the possibility of a shooter into their blueprints. But when they don’t, we end up with buildings and classrooms that offer little to no protection against a man with a gun.

Take Champlain for example, In 2015, they unveiled a new building for the communications department. There are plenty of open spaces for students to hang out and do work, plenty of classrooms to meet and study in (must-haves for every college campus, really). The kicker, though, is that some of the walls are made entirely of glass. While they look nice, people walking by can see every single person that’s inside the room. There’s nowhere to hide; not even under the tables.

What if it wasn’t a normal day? What if an active shooter came to campus and saw rooms of sitting ducks? The students would be trapped, nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. And it wouldn’t even matter if they locked the door because they could shoot through the glass.

While architecture like this is pleasing, it poses a threat for students and faculty on any college campus it’s a part of. People would have nowhere to run, nowhere to hide in the event of a tragedy, and could end up harmed because the design of the building didn’t take school shootings into consideration.

There’s only one logical step that would help students on campuses like ours: gun reform.

We need tighter background checks. We need to set a minimum age limit to purchase weapons because if you can’t drink alcohol at a bar, you have no business wielding an assault rifle. In fact, civilians in general have no business owning war-grade assault weapons. If you want to defend your home, a hunting rifle will do just fine.

The main argument behind substantial lack of movement concerning gun reform is the support of the second amendment. I’ve heard the argument from family members and from people on social media that gun control/gun reform is the equivalent of outlawing guns. What they fail to realize (or maybe fail to understand) is that gun control is not synonymous with taking away a civilian’s rights to bear arms.

People are also calling for the gun-free zones around schools to be broadened, better social work and counseling services be introduced in schools, and the introduction of a law “that would allow judges to temporarily order gun owners who are deemed a danger to themselves and others to surrender their weapons.”

The “liberal snowflakes” (as we’re called by the Conservatives) don’t want to prevent guns from existing in America. We don’t want to outlaw them; we don’t want to prevent hunters from being able to purchase new materials for hunting. We simply want more background checks, more of a screening process so that a person with a history of abuse like Nikolas Cruz can’t just walk into any store and purchase an AR-15-esque rifle.

Conservatives keep calling for tighter security—well, this is it. Security doesn’t just equate to men with guns stationed on school campuses. It can be as simple as making the process to purchase and own a gun more secure. And, really, if the people who are concerned about having guns taken away were in a good state of mind to own a gun in the first place, a few extra steps to make the children of our country safer shouldn’t cause such an uproar.

There’s no need to repeal the second amendment, and gun-owners who have nothing to hide and no ill-intentions should have no reason to protest tighter control over who gets guns. All we’re asking for is a longer, more secure process. Human lives deserve to be protected, especially in schools. There should never be another Parkland, another Sandy Hook, another Columbine. It’s time for America to change. 

K.S. Hufford is from the Finger Lakes Region of Upstate NY. She has previously been published in The Ithaca Times, Weathervane, and Joey and the Black Boots, and on the travel site GoStoweVT.  Like her hometown, she is small, but she loves to explore and finds strength in writing, friendship, and cats.