Being a teenager is stressful enough; trying to figure out who you are and who you want to be, applying to colleges, and deciding your career path all while trying to get that essay in at midnight. On top of that, many students go to school fearing that they and their classmates will be the next headline.
I was 10 when I first learned what a school shooting was. It was a normal day of school; I was in math learning long division and I got pulled out and told I was leaving early. I left the building and was bombarded with hugs from my mom and great-grandma. They later explained to me that a gunman opened fire in an elementary school only 45 minutes away. It’s been eight years since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary and my school still undergoes monthly lockdown drills, which served mostly to remind me that my school could be next. Almost every kid my age can tell you of a shooting threat at their school. But this should not be normal. The fear I saw in a classmate’s eyes the day we experienced our first shooting threat was unlike anything I had ever seen before. Many of us were contemplating leaving early and ensuring their safety or to risk it and make it to class in time for their test. I felt helpless — what could I do to protect my friends and teachers? I looked for answers and for actions I could take, and I found several clubs at my school working on issues that mattered to young people, including gun safety laws. I’d never planned on getting involved in politics, it always seemed like it was for “old people.” Like many other teens, I became involved out of necessity. I knew I had to learn and do everything I could to make sure this never happens again.
As I got more engaged, I realized how numb many people were to these shootings, especially politicians. Even as students we became numb. We continued to go about our days, going to class, hanging out with friends, playing sports, but the danger of a shooting at school was always in the back of our minds. Because many of them are not confronted with this possibility every day, it’s too easy for politicians to brush an issue like this under the rug. But we need to hold them accountable. Students are their constituents too. Many common-sense gun laws are still not in place in Connecticut, including the justifiable need to carry firearms in public and requiring registration of firearms. These laws would be small changes compared to the large impact they will have on many students’ lives.
I wanted to take my political action to the next level so I sought out a campaign to intern with during this election cycle. Stephanie Thomas, who is the Democrat running for State Representative in the 143rd District, was someone I knew I could get behind completely. She is fighting for safer gun laws and policies that will ensure our safety as students. Thomas believes in being proactive rather than reactive. She will be a strong voice in Hartford for students to help ensure that they won’t have to worry about gun violence while in their learning environment.
Thomas will demand common-sense gun laws in Connecticut. One of her key initiatives is requiring individuals who have had firearms removed due to an Extreme Risk Protection Order to demonstrate that they are no longer a risk for themselves or others before they receive their firearms back. This is one of many policies that will keep Connecticut citizens and students safe. Even though I graduated and am currently taking a gap year, this issue still drives me. I remember the fear all too well. I am supporting Stephanie Thomas for State Representative because she will fight fearlessly and tirelessly so my peers can once again feel safe at school.
With the election just around the corner, I hope you will support her too.