Gun violence reshapes student perspectives

Gun violence reshapes student perspectives
Student perspective

There have been more mass shootings than days passed this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which defines a mass shooting as an event where four or more people are shot or killed at one location at roughly the same time. Over half of these 74 tragic incidents occurred at schools, resulting in a total of 14 deaths and 26 injuries. In the current state of gun violence, freshman Felix Nelson (he/him)* feels like he is constantly under threat at school.

“It makes me feel like I have to stay on my guard at all times, because then there could be just some guy that walks into the school with a gun and starts shooting,” Nelson said. “I don’t think that students, especially younger students in elementary school, should have to think about ‘What do I do if someone comes in with a gun and starts killing people?’”

Senior Kira Mendizabal (she/they) said that, because gun violence is brought up so frequently, she has become desensitized to the issue, helping her cope with it.

“I think really the main fact of the matter is that it’s not that people don’t think it’s serious, it’s just the fact that it’s so normalized,” Mendizabal said. “It’s kind of a way of dealing with it — making jokes about it — but then when it actually happens, then it is more serious.”

Senior Arrth Mittal (he/him) agreed and attributed the lack of action towards resolving this issue to the lack of empathy. Mittal said that many only realize the importance of taking action after it’s too late.

“Everybody’s just pushing off ‘Oh, it’s not gonna happen to me, it’s not gonna happen to me,’ but the threat isn’t seen as big as it is because many haven’t really realized the weight of gun violence,” Mittal said. “People are just pushing it away.”

Gun violence has also occurred locally, such as the Ingraham High School shooting in Seattle last year, where a 14-year-old boy shot and killed another student. Because of this event’s close proximity, Mendizabal said it affected her perspective on gun violence. 

“It was kind of a shock because a friend’s mom works there,” Mendizabal said. “I guess you really never hear that much of it happening to schools so close. It was like ‘Oh, it is sort of a very real threat,’ because then you can see that people at school that you know have friends or family who were affected by that.”

Senior Quinn Marshall (he/him), the friend Mendizabal referenced, said his mother was hiding students in her office as the victim was shot and bled to his death outside the window.

“She had a bunch of students in her office and they waited until the cops came and they let them out,” said Marshall. “But the sad thing about that is her office was right next to the shooting, so a senior who was shot was right there pretty much dying the entire time that they were in the office, which is pretty morbid.”

Marshall’s mother confirmed these events. Marshall added that the event had a heavy mental toll on his mother.

“After that, it was very difficult for my mom to talk about it. I remember she couldn’t cook, she didn’t really go outside — I had to go get groceries for her,” said Marshall. “It was very hard, and loud noises really scared her; it took her a long time to really reorient back to a normal life.”

After the Ingraham shooting, Marshall said that he became more aware of the abundance of gun violence across the nation. Additionally, since the incident, Quinn began worrying that something similar could happen to Inglemoor.

“In the back of my mind, I think, ‘In what period is it going to happen?’” Marshall said. “Where am I going to go? What am I going to do? Am I going to talk to my friends, or I’m just going to get out and run?”

Emergency Preparation

The administration instructs staff members to react with any measures necessary in the event of a school shooting. Measures can range from running out of the school to finding a hiding spot to fighting back. This instruction is different from previous years, when emergency procedure was for teachers to barricade themselves and their students in a room.

“To tell a class or a teacher that you have to do one thing for safety, that could be detrimental,”  English teacher Kirsten Vesely (she/her) said. “I think they’re saying ‘You know best how to react in an emergency, go with your gut.’ So if that was my case, I would have my kids probably run.”

The district shifted to the current emergency procedure before COVID. Rainwater said he expects procedure to change again as the administration gets more data on school shootings.

“We know what’s going to happen if there’s an earthquake,” Assistant Principal Shawn Rainwater (he/him) said. “School shootings and public shootings are just so random and chaotic, there’s just no real one set way of dealing with it because the plan can always change.”

To best help students and staff prepare for a true emergency, the administration scheduled three lockdown drills this year. During the drills, teachers are instructed to turn off the lights and close the blinds to practice how they would react in the event of a shooting. Students are usually instructed to stay quiet and continue their work. But senior Milla Mehdipour (she/they) said she doesn’t think the drills are very helpful. Although Inglemoor’s open campus makes it easier for students to escape, they believe most students would likely freeze up in the event of a real shooting.

“I would probably panic. I don’t do good in high stress situations,” Mehdipour said. “If there’s a shooter on the campus, I’d be like ‘Oh, what do I do?’ Because our preparation drills, no one takes them seriously either. We just huddle in a corner for a minute and that’s it.”

Mendizabal also agreed that the structure of the drills is ineffective, but she said there’s not much else the school can do to prepare.

“In reality, anyone who comes here with the intent of harming people at school knows how schools work. And knows that school is in session this day. It’s not like they’ll see ‘Oh, all the lights are off. The blinds are closed. No one’s here. I guess I’m leaving,’” Mendizabal said.

In elementary and middle school, Mendizabal said teachers instructed her to defend herself with whatever she had access to in the classroom, such as cans of corn or baseball bats. Nelson said the drills are the best form of preparation right now. He said that until there are gun law reforms, there’s not much else the school can do to mitigate the harm of school shootings. 

Last school year, Inglemoor had a School Resource Officer — a law enforcement officer who works in a school setting — on campus most days. SROs carry guns, while campus supervisors like Ric Calhoun (he/him) do not. This year, Inglemoor no longer has an SRO, mainly due to funding issues and debates about the effectiveness of having guns on campus, Calhoun said.

“We’re spending a lot of time arguing on whether [SROs] need to be here or not,” Calhoun said. “What I think the real reality is, why do we even have to have this conversation? Why are there so many school shootings or just general shootings?”

Calhoun said he believes in responsible gun ownership. He said there should be more laws in place to ensure people use guns responsibly, but he said there’s little being done about it.

“It is just heartbreaking,” Calhoun said. “Especially because I am a safety person — that people can’t go to school or can’t go to church or can’t go to concerts or can’t go to the mall without also having to be worried that that experience might be interrupted by gun violence.”

 

Gun Policy

The U.S. ranks first for homicides by firearm among the 65 high-income countries at 14.6 per 100,000 people in 2021. Washington, on the other hand, ranks well below the national gun death rate average, with 800 gun-related deaths per year compared to the 970 casualty state average. Washington has several laws in place to reduce gun violence, such as background checks on all gun sales and a strict minimum age and sales records laws. Most recently, Washington banned the selling and manufacturing of assault weapons, expanded safety training and required schools to notify families about secure firearm storage. 

Additionally, the Washington Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention distributed grants for local efforts to reduce gun violence through planning, prevention and intervention programming. Programs include prevention strategies to reach at-risk populations and community engagement to develop collaborative violence reduction strategies. 

Unlike Washington, Idaho requires no permit to purchase a firearm, no background check beyond minimum federal checks and no firearms registration. This difference in policy allows guns to be easily trafficked across state lines. Despite Washington having the 11th strictest gun regulations in the country, gun violence is the leading cause of death among children and teens in the state.

“Say if somebody had ill intentions, they could definitely [bring a gun to school] and there’s nothing stopping them,” Mittal said. “If they brought a gun to school, nobody’s checking it; they would have no issues doing it. We’re just lucky enough that we haven’t had anybody wanting to do something like that.”

Junior Will Moore (he/him) said he believes school shooters are often uneducated about and inexperienced with firearms. He believes that owning and handling firearms comes with a responsibility to protect the safety of everyone around you. Moore said that gun policy isn’t the issue, but rather improper education and the need to foster greater responsibility. He said that the individuals who are going to cause mass destruction with firearms will find a way to get ahold of them no matter the regulations and that change needs to come from the people themselves. 

“From a young age, I was told that as soon as you lay hands on a weapon, you don’t point it in any direction you don’t intend to kill or destroy,” Moore said. “It’s all just responsibility, how you carry it, what your intention with it is, if it’s for protection, if it’s for providing for your family.”

Besides the Second Amendment, which guarantees the right to bear arms, the only major federal regulations are minimum age requirements and federal background check systems, which only act as a list of persons prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm. Marshall said the U.S. should at least impose regulation baselines. 

“I respect different states wanting to do their own thing because that’s in the name of democracy, but there should at least still be a basis,” Marshall said. “We shouldn’t have our next-door neighbor doing whatever they want. I feel like a lot of people on both sides of the argument will agree. We don’t want people dying, we don’t want kids dying and we don’t people being shot up in the street.”

Guns are deeply ingrained in American society; according to a Pew Research study, about a third of U.S. adults reported owning a gun. The study found that 72% of gun owners in the U.S. cite protection as the primary reason they own a gun. Nelson said that the leniency of gun policies has created a vicious cycle. 

“People end up just killing each other because they can, or you end up with inexperienced people buying something that can kill a person,” Nelson said.

Mendizabal said that growing up hearing about Parkland and Uvalde has caused her generation to push for stronger gun policies to try and prevent the same situation from happening to their kids. 

“There is still the real fear of like, what if it did happen and what if I didn’t make it out,” Mendizabal said. “You don’t want your kid to worry about that.”

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About the Contributors
William He (he/him), Junior Web Editor, Photo Editor
Junior William He embarks on his journey of the 2023-2024 school year as the Junior Web Editor and Photo Editor of Nordic News. In his third year on staff, Will aims to continue Nordic’s mission of serving the Inglemoor community by expanding the newspaper’s physical and digital presence by creating relevant, informative, and entertaining content. Outside of Nordic, Will is a full IB student and participates in DECA. 
Daniel Su (he/him), News Editor, Senior PR Manager
Junior Daniel Su is hyped for his second year on Nordic as news editor and Senior PR Manager. This year, he is looking to improve his writing and reporting skills while making sure every student at IHS is represented in Nordic’s stories. Outside of Nordic, Daniel runs XC and plays soccer for the school. He is also involved in a lot of interesting clubs, such as DECA, MUN, and Chess club. He hopes you find our issues interesting and helpful. Happy reading Viks!
Claire Meng (she/her), Web Editor-in-Chief, Co-Business Manager
Junior Claire Meng is thrilled to be back for her third year on the Nordic staff as the Senior Web Editor and Co-Business Manager. Her goals this year are to amplify Nordic’s social media presence, take captivating photos and report on hidden issues. Outside of Nordic she’s an assistant coach at Seattle Badminton Club, flutist in SYSO Youth and president of Inglemoor’s math club. She loves book shopping and lemon cookies.
Sophomore Annabelle Yip is starting as a reporter for Nordic News. This year she hopes to have fun, meet new people, and contribute to a cohesive and entertaining newspaper for the school. She wants to learn more about journalism ethics, article editing, and reporting methods. Annabelle is also a private tutor, works part-time and works as the Director of Treasury for FBLA. Outside of Nordic, you’ll find her cooking for insatiable family members, buying useless items off Amazon, and tutoring sleep-deprived middle school students.

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