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Tuesday, June 25, 2024 — Houston, TX

We will not wait until the next school shooting

By Jasir Rahman     1/24/24 7:00am

Editor’s Note: This is a guest opinion that has been submitted by a member of the Rice community. The views expressed in this opinion are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of the Thresher or its editorial board. All guest opinions are fact-checked to the best of our ability and edited for clarity and conciseness by Thresher editors.

This guest opinion is adapted from an article written by UNC March for Our Lives, published in more than 50 student newspapers nationally. The original article was signed by 144 student leaders representing over 90 student groups across the nation.

The tragedy at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde remains the deadliest mass shooting in this country since 2019. 

The deadliest mass shooting in 2019? El Paso.

The last mass shooting of 2023 occurred in Austin.

There have already been three mass shootings in Texas this year, one of which occurred in Houston.

Yosha Hamilton, whose 16-year-old son Shane, a star athlete who dreamed of becoming a professional basketball player before being shot and killed in Baytown, summed up the collective conscience of so many in this state.

“It’s hell.”

Students in Texas are taught to love a country that values guns over our lives.

Many of us hear the sound of gunfire when we watch fireworks on the fourth of July. All of us have heard the siren of an active shooter drill and asked ourselves: Are we next?

By painful necessity, we have grown to become much more than students learning in a classroom — we have shed every last remnant of our childhood innocence. 

Our hearts bleed from this uniquely American — uniquely Texan — brand of gun violence, and yet we remind ourselves that we love our country so much that we expect better from it. 

Despite calls upon lawmakers to do something about this epidemic of violence, our cries for action fall upon deaf ears. We are tired of being ridiculed as “radical” by lawmakers for championing common-sense gun reforms like expanding background checks, which are supported by a majority of Texans. What is radical is the status quo, where gun violence is the leading cause of death among Texas youth — more than cancer and more than car accidents. Year after year, Texas loosens restrictions on guns, and year after year, the rate of youth gun deaths increases. 

But I write today, along with hundreds of young people around the country, because I believe that our country has the capacity to love us back. There are bullet-shaped holes in our hearts, but our spirits are unbreakable.

I joined the gun violence prevention movement when I was 17 years old. Nearly every week, my brother, who was just in the 6th grade, would come home and tell us about a shooting in his school’s neighborhood in Lexington, Ky. In 2018, a student brought a loaded gun to my high school. The following week, a student at another school in my hometown legally purchased an AR-15 and made threats to shoot his classmates. The threat of violence was constant, but I knew I couldn’t depend on my legislators to pass policies to keep me or my loved ones safe. 

I remember watching my future friend and Team ENOUGH founding member Aalayah Eastmond’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee. I shed tears, not from the horror she described from hiding herself under the body of Nicholas Dworet during the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. No, it was Aalayah’s resiliency and bravery. To share her story, to honor her fallen friends through it and to fight to prevent anyone from ever enduring that pain inspired me. I joined Team ENOUGH because, like Aalayah, I couldn’t wait for elected officials to do the right thing. And I couldn’t wait to lose someone I loved to act.

We believe that while it’s not fair that we must rise against a problem that we did not create, we have no choice: Our lives depend on it. Because for 360,000 of us since Columbine, the cursed emotional vocabulary of survivorship has become our story. We can’t stand by, waiting to lose the next Shane Hamilton or Nicholas Dworet before we are so compelled to act. We believe that we should not wait, and we will not wait, for individual trauma to affect us all before we respond together. 

In a country with a rich legacy of youth-led movements, from the Civil Rights Movement to protests of the Vietnam War, our words do not have to end on the page, but rather can be channeled into change. And so we invite you to join this generation’s community of organizers, all of us united in demanding a future free of gun violence. 

2024 is a crucial election. It is a presidential election year. Ted Cruz is up for election. Every single seat of the United States and Texas House of Representatives is up for election. We are at a crucial junction for the future of this country and Texas. We have the power to set the agenda to ensure that those who hold the highest seats of power genuinely represent us. Record youth turnout in 2020 set the stage for the passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the most comprehensive gun reform bill in nearly 30 years. This bill passed just a month after Uvalde. 

I have one request: Contact your representative. Make the pain that we feel, the fear we live under and the loss we have endured unignorable. And if they continue to ignore our cries, the cries of everyone who loses a sibling to gun suicide, the cries of children who are shot in the street, the cries of mothers who lose their babies? Vote them out of office come November.

As Aalayah says, “If you’re not with us, get out of our way.”

Politicians will not have the shallow privilege of reading another front-cover op-ed by students on their knees, begging them to do their jobs. They will instead contend with the reality that by uniting with each other and among parents, educators and communities, our demands become undeniable. Our movement is not just moving away from the unbearable pain of our yesterday — we move toward an unrelenting hope for our tomorrow.

Our generation dares politicians to look us in the eye and tell us they’re too afraid to try.

[Jan. 24, 2024 3:02 p.m.] The national article was written by UNC March for Our Lives, not Team ENOUGH. This article has been corrected.

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