What does it mean to be an American teenager growing up in the twenty-first century? Although no two people are identical, commonalities can typically be found between even the most distinct of us adolescents. Most are students, frequently feeling pressure from school and the workload that accompanies it. Many are athletes, musicians, and artists. While these particular traits hardly differentiate America’s current youth from past generations, there are countless reasons why members of the age group dubbed “Generation Z” are growing up in a completely different country than the one their parents did. The obvious distinction is the normalization of social media; the modern era is ridden with smartphones and addictive apps that seem impossible to evade for long periods of time. However, there’s another commonality that has woven its way into the fabric of what it means to be a twenty-first century teen: the fear of guns.
Before the turn of the century that brought my peers and me into the world, a horrifying incident occurred that permanently changed the dialogue surrounding gun violence in America: the infamous Columbine Shooting. At the time, it had been the worst school shooting the nation had faced, with thirteen lives at the school in Littleton, Colorado taken and another forty injured. Shocked, countless Americans were left to question what had propelled the two shooters to commit such an atrocity, and whether there should have been more regulations in place to prevent this incident.
While this may have been a fairly definitive start to the conversation about how to reduce gun violence, it was far from the end of it. As the topic has been deliberated, the country has racked up an alarmingly long list of shootings, whether in schools, churches, synagogues, clubs, or restaurants. This nation’s youth has grown watching these incidents, and has seen no action be taken in turn. However, part of growing up is realizing that despite being older and more experienced, adults don’t always address the problem at hand. Issues that seem clear become convoluted in the world of politics, and the list of victims grows longer as the topic is deliberated.
I was born in 2003, four years after Columbine. While I wasn’t alive when the tragedy occurred, I heard whispers about it as I grew older. This was far from the only shooting that would be discussed as I matured; in fact, many of my own personal milestones aligned with other incidents. I too was in elementary school when 20 children only a few years younger than me were cruelly taken away from their families in Newtown, Connecticut. I too was a high schooler when 17 teachers and students were gunned down in Parkland, Florida by a teenager previously expelled from the same school. The students utilized social media, the very thing that distinguishes our generation, to not only capture videos of the bloodshed, but also to say goodbye to their loved ones.
A school should be for learning. A place of worship should be for prayer. A concert should be for music. Gun violence has become far too normalized throughout our society, with instances that should be outliers becoming recurring incidents. Yet the problem is not too far gone; the problem can be remedied through hard work and perseverance. I believe it is a human right to live in a community without the fear of gun violence, and this is a right I will continue to fight for until resolved.
- “Columbine Shooting.” History , edited by History.com Editors, 8 May 2019, www.history.com/topics/1990s/columbine-high-school-shootings. Accessed 9 Dec. 2019.
- Grinberg, Emanuella, and Eric Levenson. “At Least 17 Dead in Florida School Shooting, Law Enforcement Says .” CNN, 14 Feb. 2018, www.cnn.com/2018/02/14/us/florida-high-school-shooting/index.html. Accessed 9 Dec. 2019.
- Schuppe, Jon. “NRA Sticking with Trump, Breaks Own Record for Campaign Spending.” NBC News, 12 Oct. 2016, www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/nra-sticking-trump-breaks-own-record-campaign-spending-n665056. Accessed 9 Dec. 2019.