What is the solution?

After recent school shooting in Florida, Americans strive for ways to better protect students


Aseal Saed

Senior Priscilla Park and sophomore Sadaf Khan are one of the many students that are calling for stricter restrictions on the ability for people to access guns.

Aseal Saed, Co-Editor in Chief

Dozens of students swiftly walked out of their classes to participate in a national school walkout on March 14 for 17 minutes.

The walk-out was created by an organization called EMPOWER in hopes of inspiring lawmakers to increase gun restrictions some of which include banning assault rifles and require universal background checks.

“There should definitely be serious restrictions on guns in America to prevent accidents, and those who feel like owning guns should be educated about the risks and the laws concerning gun possession as to clear any confusion in the future,” senior Priscilla Park said. “That is why I am walking out.”

This spark of teen activism comes in response to the recent school shooting at Marjory Stoneman High School that left 17 people dead. Americans were bombarded once again with images of violence, tears, and condolences.

19-year-old Nikolas Cruz arrived at the Florida high school in an Uber, equipped with an assault rifle, magazines, and smoke grenades which then set off the fire alarm. As students were filing out of their classes, Cruz began using his AR-15, a semiautomatic weapon made for military use, to shoot at students and into classrooms.

The Parkland shooting is considered to be the deadliest school shooting since the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, which took the lives of 20 children and six adults.

A myriad of voices have risen up to try to bring an end to gun violence, but Americans have varying opinions regarding the solution.

At AHS, located only nine miles away from the National Rifle Association (NRA) headquarters, students have a variety of possible solutions. Some students believe that the solution to the mass shootings is implementing increased restrictions on gun access.

The Parkland shooter legally obtained an AR-15, one of at least ten guns he purchased after turning 18. Florida, where the recent shooting occurred, does not require fingerprints, a special permit, or a waiting period to buy a gun which has been a point of contention amongst the public. Gun laws vary significantly from state to state.

Several states, including California and Rhode Island, impose waiting periods to purchase a gun. In states with less regulation, purchases are speedy. Some states have stricter regulation for certain types of guns, such as assault rifles, but in states with fewer gun regulations, semi-automatic guns can be treated similarly to any other firearm purchases.

In Florida, machine guns and heavy ammunition guns can be obtained legally for 18-year-olds, including Cruz, creating a slew of debates about the severity of gun restrictions. No other developed country in the world has the same rate of gun violence as America. The U.S. has nearly six times the gun homicide rate as Canada.

“[I use guns for] hunting. I was trained at a very young age how to use a gun properly and also for home protection,” history teacher Jonathan York said. “The second amendment means that people have the right to own guns, but the government also has the right to regulate it as well. That is what a lot of people forget, such as what age someone can buy a gun, the size of the magazines you can use so the government has every right to regulate guns.”

In most states, the store will run two background checks and some provide nearly instantaneous results. Customers can fail the federal background check for a number of reasons, including if they are a convicted felon, fugitive from justice, or convicted of domestic violence.

“It is ridiculous that you can buy a gun without being properly trained for it. To get a car, you have to be licensed and registered. You have to go through a course to learn how to drive a car,” York said. “The fact that an 18-year-old or any aged person can go to Walmart, K-Mart and buy a shotgun without training is absolutely crazy.”

In most states, including Virginia, private sellers are allowed to sell guns without performing any kind of background check – state or federal.

“I think that is good that a lot of people are starting to form opinions and get more involved in politics, especially young people as they reach the voter age, but people need to understand that bad things happen and you can’t let your emotions get in the way of the facts,” senior Hunter Swedish said. “If young people can enlist at 17, why shouldn’t young people be allowed to have access to guns?”

In response to the shooting, the Fairfax County School Board met on Feb. 23 to discuss different methods to keep students safer in schools. School Board member Ryan McElveen asked County residents to demand stricter federal and statewide gun control measures in a resolution passed that night.

“I am marching because I don’t think enough people, especially my friends and family, realize how severe and out of control the shootings have been recent,” Park said. “If me marching can bring awareness so that they too can join in the fight for gun control, that can prevent more lives being lost.”

In addition to gun regulations, McElveen’s resolution seeks to advance mental health support for students. Many attribute the acts of violence to the mental health of the shooters.

Students at the school described Cruz as an “outcast” and a “loner” in interviews following the incident. Some said Cruz would talk about his “guns, knives and hunting,” and that “everyone predicted” he would turn into a school shooter.

The Florida teenagers who survived the shooting at their school have called on the nation’s leaders to immediately work to enact stricter gun control laws to prevent another shooting from occurring in the United States. In addition to stricter federal and state laws, lawmakers have also called for increased security within schools.

County Board member Elizabeth Schultz will introduce a proposal that would consider the possibility of a full-time armed presence at all Fairfax County schools.

In schools, currently, school resource officers, who are Fairfax County police officers, are the only people allowed to be armed in county middle and high schools. In the event of an active shooter, officers present in the school building are required to locate the shooter and diffuse the situation.

“The training that we have provided since the very beginning is that regardless if you are the SRO in the building, you try to locate that threat and try to deal with it. That’s one good reason for our presence- we are already here,” SRO Adam Curcio said. “If I am on my way to a threat and someone is injured they have to understand that I have to deal with the threat first.”

There are certain preventative methods in place to make sure that threats are dealt with before something were to happen. The school participates in regular lockdown drills to ensure the school is prepared in a threatening situation.

Since last week’s school shooting in Parkland, FL, the number of threats of violence against schools across the country has increased.

It was recorded that schools receive about 50 threats a day on average since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people were killed.

Also, all threats reported online and to the school are investigated. The threat is a first assessed by the school, but if severe enough can be required to be investigated by the SRO which are all taken seriously.

“SROs and school personnel are trained to be prepared for any potential threat,” Curcio said.