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Opinion: Gen Z came of age in the era of school shootings. When will the slaughter stop? | Opinion | #schoolshooting

I was 10 years old on Dec. 12, 2012. That morning, my elementary school locked us down in our classrooms. I thought we were just getting extra time in art class that day, until I looked at my teacher. Surrounded by our colorful paintings tacked on the wall, her face, usually stretched with a smile, was grim.

Less than 15 minutes away, a gunman slaughtered 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Innocent babies and adults, ripped from this world in the most horrific way imaginable.

It wasn’t until I came home that day that I learned what happened. A child myself, I could not comprehend it. An adult now, I’m not sure I ever will.

The Sandy Hook school shooting was a shocking tragedy, and people in power vowed up and down it would never be repeated.

But here we are again, 21 innocent souls in Uvalde, Texas, stolen from the Earth by a killer late last month. 

Those precious children were supposed to finish the school year that Thursday. They were supposed to spend the coming days playing outside, laughing with friends, drawing chalk figures into the pavement. They were supposed to do what kids do. Instead, their families buried them.

With their inaction, our nation’s leaders have tacitly decided this violence is an acceptable part of American life. No matter how many dead children’s names end up in the news, no matter how many families are consumed by unimaginable grief, they do not seem moved enough to act.

After Sandy Hook, American leaders promised the nation that no child would die in this way again. Since that day, there have been 101 school shootings, leaving 90 children and 72 adults dead, according to a TIME estimate.

The Uvalde gunman turned 18 on May 16. From May 17 to May 20, he legally purchased two AR platform rifles and ammunition. On May 24, he used one of those weapons to kill 21 people and wound many others.

Deemed too irresponsible to buy a beer, American teenagers can purchase weapons capable of rapid, mass murder.

Not allowing 18-year-olds to buy assault rifles is in no way a radical position. But lawmakers bought by the National Rifle Association have spent years shooting down even the most common sense laws to prevent killers from purchasing weapons. 

Many of those politicians say this is because mental health, not guns, is the root of the problem. At the same time, they repeatedly vote to restrict health care access and fail to offer legislation to address mental health problems or early intervention.

In the wake of this most recent tragedy, the Senate appears to have reached a modest agreement on gun reform and school shooting prevention. The deal would add additional review for those purchasing firearms under 21 and provides funding for state’s to implement “red flag” laws, aimed at keeping guns away from people who are potentially dangerous. 

Time will tell if these measures pass and if they make a difference in preventing these tragedies. But the fact that it took 10 years of dozens of school killings for our leaders to make even small steps toward change should weigh heavy on the nation.

Whatever the future holds, the American people should not forget the leaders who actively halted progress tragedy after tragedy.

We should not forget all the children who went to school and never came home.

Claire Sullivan is a 19-year-old coastal environmental science and political communication major from Southbury, CT.

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