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While We Learned, They Died

While we explored how to analyze and discuss another writer’s argument, their hearts began racing and their fight-or-flight responses kicked in.

While we quietly listened to classmates deliver their own presentations about the literature they had just studied, their hallways teemed with chaos.

While we moved peacefully about our classroom, they ran out the doors of their building.

While we politely navigated the crowded hallways on our way to our destinations, they watched their friends fall as they scrambled toward freedom.

While we learned, they died. Because while we learned, safe and comfortable in our town’s quiet high school, their once-safe, comfortable, and quiet building echoed with gunshots.

Two students are dead and 17 are injured after a juvenile gunman once again opened fire on his classmates, this time at Marshall County High School in Benton, Kentucky. And while the 15-year-old suspect was successfully apprehended not long after the incident began, it was too late for the 2 students whose last moments were filled with terror and pain and the 17 others whose lives will be forever changed by this tragedy.

My students and I may have been safe and sound at the high school in which I teach while those of Marshall County High clamored for survival. But that was today. What about tomorrow? Will our classrooms and hallways be disrupted with the confusing yet unmistakable sound of bullets exiting firearms? At this point, there’s no telling.

The Kentucky school shooting is the 14th mass shooting of 2018 so far. THE 14TH MASS SHOOTING. It’s not even the end of January yet.

When will this stop? When will we decide that thoughts and prayers are not enough? When will our children’s safety trump our fears of too much governmental interference in our right to bear arms? When will we prioritize security over status quo? What has to happen for us to be willing to take action to ensure weapons such as the handgun the young Kentucky shooter used to wreak havoc among his unsuspecting classmates are less available to those prone to abusing them?

The answer is not in arming teachers. I am an educator, not a police officer.

The answer is not in blaming those suffering from mental health problems. Access to much-needed mental health care is a separate, albeit important, issue in need of addressing.

The answer is not in accepting the notion that bad people will find guns anyway. Stricter regulations and background checks on those wishing to purchase firearms absolutely will reduce the number of mass shootings in our country.

It does not have to be an all or nothing situation. Regulation does not mean elimination. We can and must make our communities safer.

While we learned, they died. It’s only a matter of time before this is again the case. Will it be our turn — your turn — next?

Because people may kill people. But that young shooter in Kentucky sure had a lot of help from a gun.

Want to help prevent further gun violence in America? Visit Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America to learn how.