I was born nine days after the Columbine shooting in 1999. I remember exactly where I was in 2012 when I heard the devastating news of Sandy Hook, and on Dec. 6, my little sister sent my family the text I’ve dreaded my whole life to receive, “I think there’s an active shooter on campus, I love you.”
She was at UNLV, the same school I graduated from two years ago. She told us the shooter was in her building, in the BEH, and I knew exactly where she was. Luckily, she made it out alive.
She was evacuated out of her classroom swiftly by the police, running with her hands over her head as they held assault rifles and yelled at her to stop crying.
This is not a new experience in America, and this is not a tragedy that is new to Las Vegas, even though this is the second experience of gun violence in less than 10 years that has left our community shaken and scarred.
Las Vegas is still hurting from Oct. 1, 2017, the largest and worst mass shooting to occur in American history, and it was that horrific event that allowed us to minimize the casualties on Dec. 6, but I dream of a protection force that prevents violence rather than responds to it and a state that doesn’t allow individuals to terrorize our concerts and schools with gunshots.
My sister, I, and the thousands of other students that made it alive that day and every day are survivors of the Nevadan and American education systems. I am proud to be born and raised in this city, my dad has spent his entire teaching career at CCSD, and I spent first through 12th grades at our public schools; I graduated as a valedictorian from Ober Elementary School, Cashman Middle School and Valley High School, and I earned my bachelor’s degree magna cum laude in political science at UNLV.
I grew up writing papers on our evolution of crime from serial killers to mass shootings and defended countless theses advocating for gun control both locally and nationally, understanding how pervasive our gun problem is to the sanctity of our schools and livelihoods, even back then.
I also grew up being reminded that Nevada ranked last in education, a statistic and fact that sent me into cognitive dissonance every time I heard it.
I tried to believe in the opportunities and power of education right here in my home; I attended magnet schools that transported me into different zip codes of the city, widening my connection to the Vegas community and the vibrant people that make it so wonderful, while watching our schools become defunded and increasingly militarized, with less arts programs, less budget for teachers, less food and transportation services, and with more campus police, more gates and metal detectors, and more active shooter drills.
The educational environment I was raised in has taught me, through its curriculum, my lived experience, and Dec. 6 only solidified this. It’s not a fear of if our children will fall victim to a school shooter; it’s a fear of when. We have reached a point where we cannot ensure safety in our schools. We cannot guarantee students and parents that their families won’t become the news.
We cannot even say, “This will never happen again.” Because it happened again.
Our governor has vetoed three gun control bills just this year, but we need leadership and policies committed to our protection, to our children’s protection. More funding to our police force will not make the gun violence stop; this is not an end to the problem but a bandage on a system that has been long broken.
The impacts of gun violence go beyond bullets; three lives were taken and one critically wounded on Dec. 6, four UNLV students were hospitalized for panic attacks, traumatized, and we will never be able to give them back their innocence and sense of peace. School should not be a place of fear; it’s an institution that represents education, opportunity and betterment. Our children deserve an education system where they are guaranteed to survive, classrooms with doors they don’t have to barricade and desks they don’t have to hide under.
They deserve an education that uplifts, not threatens, their lives.
We need to make our cycle of gun violence stop, and that begins with policies; it cannot end with thoughts and prayers.