Students participate in a 'die in' in front of the Alamo.
Students participate in a 'die-in' in front of the Alamo during the March for Our Lives national protest against relaxed gun laws in March 2018. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Before the start of the school year, my family and I had a serious conversation regarding safety in school. We discussed bulletproof backpack inserts and various protocols on what I should do should a shooting ever occur on my campus. Recently a public service announcement from the Sandy Hook Promise advocacy group was a clear reminder that preparing to go to school now entails more than simply buying binders and backpacks. 

I wondered why I had to take these kinds of precautions. Why aren’t these problems being adequately addressed on a policy level? As a senior in high school, I am beginning to feel that some of our current lawmakers may be out of touch with my generation.

The founding fathers envisioned a society where the right to bear arms would make a positive impact, but we no longer live in the same society. Our world has changed. No longer do we live in a world of single-shot muskets; we live in a world of semi-automatic weapons and bullet-filled magazines. The question becomes how we keep our communities safe while honoring the founding fathers. 

There is at least one simple fix: change the law so that all buyers must undergo background checks no matter where they are acquiring a firearm. Currently, a background check is only required in commercial transactions at businesses, not at gun shows or informal purchases. This essentially makes background checks irrelevant, as those who do not have clean backgrounds can easily bypass such barriers. 

Universal background checks would reduce the likelihood of firearms falling into the hands of dangerous people. The vast majority of guns purchased never fire upon any person, but those that do cause such havoc, chaos, pain, and suffering that it warrants a change to gun laws.

The individual responsible for the Midland-Odessa shooting failed a background check but still managed to purchase a firearm from a private seller. As a result, eight people lost their lives and 25 others were injured. If this continues, more and more lives will be lost because of a simple loophole our legal system has yet to fix. What will be the wakeup call for lawmakers to do something?  

The reality is, on any given day, there could be another mass shooting. In fact, the likelihood of exposure to gun violence is even higher in Texas than the rest of the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Texas had the greatest number of deaths by firearms of any state in the U.S. from 2015 to 2017.

The response from lawmakers to each one of these horrific events is almost always the same. They say things like “now is not the time to debate gun laws” or offer “thoughts and prayers,” and nothing changes. My generation is tired of these meaningless pleasantries. At recent rallies, crowds have begun to respond to lawmakers with chants of “do something.” 

Next year, I’m going to be a freshman in college, which got me thinking about how safe I will be then. After some research, I found that since 2001, at least 437 people were either injured or killed in firearm incidents on college campuses. That’s 437 people whose lives were either ended or drastically changed, 437 lives that could have gone on to do something great with the university education they were receiving if there were stricter background check laws in place. Think of how many lives could be spared with such a simple change.  

It’s time for lawmakers to do something tangible to protect us. This issue is perhaps the single most important issue facing my generation. Lawmakers have a choice: they can either take action to protect us, or we will find other representatives who will. Either way, we must be the generation that finally sees this through, that takes meaningful action to reduce the brutality of gun violence in public areas. It’s time for us to do something. 

Ian Kearney

Ian Kearney is a senior at BASIS San Antonio Shavano Charter School. He volunteers as a chess tutor for the San Antonio Public Libraries and has represented his school at competitions in basketball and...