We will not wait for another school shooting

Gun Rights

Editor’s Note: The following is an Op-Ed signed by more than 140 student leaders nationwide. The piece has been published simultaneously across more than 50 student newspapers, including public and private universities. Different versions of this article have been published by various papers in accordance with their personal style and requirements. Content relating to the state of Michigan was written by LSA junior Mikah Rector-Brooks, a press associate for March For Our Lives, and only appears in The Daily.

Students are taught to love a country that values guns over our lives.

Some of us hear the sound of gunfire when we watch fireworks on the Fourth of July or when we watch a drumline performance at halftime. But all of us have heard the siren of an active-shooter drill and fear that one day, our campus will be next.

Our hearts bleed from this uniquely American brand of gun violence. Of all children killed by a gun in high-income countries, more than 90% of deaths have been in the United States. 

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For the 360,000 students who have experienced gun violence since Columbine, the toll of bearing witness, losing our classmates and friends and succumbing to the cursed emotional vocabulary of survivorship has become our American story.

History has taught us that when injustice calls students to act, we shape the moral arc of this country.

During the Civil Rights Movement, students shared their stories through protest, creating the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which organized the Freedom Rides, sit-ins and marches. 

Students across America organized teach-ins during the Vietnam War to expose its calculated cruelties — in doing so, they rediscovered this country’s empathy. 

This fall, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill students’ text exchanges amid a campus shooting reached the hands of President Joe Biden. The nation read the desperate words of UNC’s wounded community, as students organized rallies and got thrown out of the North Carolina Legislature. We demanded freedom from gun violence, just as we did after Parkland, Sandy Hook, Michigan State University and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Yes, it is unfair that we must rise up against problems that we did not create, but the organizers of past student movements know from lived experience that we decide the future of the country.

The country watched student sit-ins at Greensboro, N.C., prompting Congress to pass  civil rights legislation. The country witnessed students expose its lies about Vietnam, and Congress subsequently withdrew from the war. 

In recent years, the country has watched student survivors march against gun violence, leading the White House to create the National Office of Gun Violence Prevention on Sep. 22, 2023.

Here in Michigan, it was students and survivors of the MSU and Oxford shootings that convinced state lawmakers to finally take meaningful action to prevent the loss of more life. Last April, crowded around students, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a historic gun safety package, followed by extreme risk protection orders in May and a gun ban for domestic abusers in November. 

Young people made this happen. Yet, these laws are simply the bare bones of gun safety and will not end the gun violence epidemic. We can’t wait for more young people to die before passing the next round of legislation. If we do, it’ll be too late. 

So, as students and young people alike, we should know our words don’t end on this page — we will channel them into change. 

We invite you to join this generation’s community of organizers, all of us united in demanding a future free of gun violence. We understand the gravity of this commitment because it’s not simply our lives we protect with prose and protest. It is our way of life itself. 

We will not allow America to be painted in a new layer of blood. We will not allow politicians to gamble our lives just to line their pockets with millions of dollars from the National Rifle Association. 

And, most of all, politicians will not have the shallow privilege of reading another front-cover op-ed by students on their knees, begging them to do their jobs — we do not need a permission slip to defend our freedoms. No longer will we let them watch us beg for mercy. They will instead contend with the reality that as we unite  alongside parents, educators and communities, our demands become undeniable. 

We feel intense anger, frustration and sadness, and in its wake we search for reaffirmations of our empathy. We rediscover this fulfillment in our organizing, in our community, in not just moving away from the unbearable pain of yesterday but in moving toward an unrelenting hope for tomorrow.

Mikah Rector-Brooks is an LSA junior and a press associate for March For Our Lives. They can be reached at mikahrb@umich.edu. The above Op-Ed is signed and endorsed by more than 140 student leaders. Their names can be found here.

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