Twenty years ago, two Columbine High School students murdered twelve peers and one teacher.
Two decades later, the rate of school shootings has increased. In 2018, there were more incidents of gun violence and more gun deaths at schools than any other year on record. In no other developed nation do students face these unprecedented levels of gun violence in their schools.
We owe it to every victim, every survivor, every student, every teacher, every parent, and all school staff across America to pass universal background checks, to place restrictions on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and to prohibit bump stocks
I was a high school student a thousand miles away when the Columbine massacre took place. It changed the psyche of young people in America. The era that followed saw more active shooter drills. Hiding in classrooms and bathrooms. Advice on how to stand on the toilet to hide your feet. Second-guessing your peers. Plans for airport-style security to get to class.
Our teachers are left to decide if they are strong enough to try to take down an active shooter. If they should close the door and shield their students, or try to lead their students out to safety. They are asked to think about how to barricade their doors, as much a part of their job as how to structure their class time.
Student, parent, and teacher activists — from Columbine, to Virginia Tech, to Sandy Hook, to Marjory Stoneman Douglas — have shown what elected officials in Washington have lacked when it comes to common-sense, comprehensive gun reforms: courage.
These simple, bipartisan steps will not stop every single gun death. But today, on the 20th anniversary of the Columbine massacre, we owe it to Rachel, Daniel, Dave, Kyle, Steven, Cassie, Isaiah, Matthew, Lauren, John, Kelly, Daniel, and Corey to commit to these basic measures to make our country and our communities safer.
And we owe it to every young person and every educator to make sure that they have a safe place to learn and teach.
When I was deployed in Afghanistan, it was my responsibility to carry two weapons — a pistol and a rifle (an M4, which is not that different than an AR15 if we’re being honest) — on foreign soil on the orders of a U.S. president. I’m aware of the capabilities of some weaponry that simply does not belong on the streets of American neighborhoods in peacetime.
I think most people understand that as a member of the generation defined by mass shootings, and as a veteran of the military, I’m coming to these views honestly. And even in my very red state of Indiana, many common-sense reforms are widely accepted and understood to be constitutional. Yet Washington can’t deliver. This must change.
We must do better for each other.
We can do this if we decide to.
Pete for America
PO Box 1226
South Bend, IN 46626