Good Morning 57th!
So last Thursday, my school staged a lockdown drill. It staged three drills, in fact—a lockdown drill, a tornado drill, and a fire drill—all in a matter of fifteen minutes. My class and I spent the first five minutes hiding behind a set of risers that would hopefully obscure us if someone were to walk into our school with a firearm; we spent the next five minutes kneeling with our foreheads to the floor alongside a cinderblock wall that would hopefully secure us if a twister were to come ripping through our placid suburb; and we spent the last five minutes standing on a sidewalk that would provide a convenient place to gawk if we were forced outside the building by a fire.
Humor aside, though, it’s clear that while no one really likes these kinds of drills, they still have to be conducted. As students, we must know what can be done to increase our chances of survival, because anything can happen: fires, tornados, and—most dangerous of all—school shootings. I’m not kidding about school shootings being the most dangerous, by the way: in the past sixty years, there has been exactly one major school fire in the United States, and it killed 95 people. More than 100 people have been killed or injured by school shooters in 2018 alone, and the year is not even finished yet. In a community such as ours (which isn’t exactly known for its tornados), school shootings pose the deadliest threat to me and my classmates—and they can happen anywhere there’s a disgruntled student with access to firearms. It’s not a pleasant scenario to think about, but I’d much rather address it and have some idea of what to do than ignore it and be completely clueless if such a tragedy were ever to befall my school.
Your State Representative, Jonathan Carroll, feels the same way as I do. That’s why he was the chief House sponsor of Senate Bill 2350 (which was signed into law by Governor Rauner last month), a new law that requires all public schools in Illinois to hold at least one lockdown drill during the first 90 days of the school year. I appreciate his work in helping to get the bill passed; now every student in the state will have some idea of what to do if a shooter enters their place of learning. As nice as that is, though, it is very far from a perfect solution: some classrooms are likely to be designed without a convenient place for several dozen teenagers to hide, some students might be out in the hallways when the shooter emerges, and it’s unlikely that an impression of total desertion will fool a school shooter for very long (particularly if the shooter is a student at the school and has undergone the same drills before).
That’s why it’d be much more effective in the long term to pursue comprehensive solutions for this country’s ever-growing problems with guns and mental health. Too many kids grow up in a harsh environment, both at school and at home, that breeds resentment of authority figures, their peers, and the world in general, while offering no outlet for pent-up anger and emotion; it’s vital that this gap be closed with increased funding and mental health training, or it will be very hard to dissuade potential shooters from taking out their rage on the world on with violence.
What’s more, in many cases, prospective shooters acquire their gun by paying someone else to buy it for them, in a process known as straw purchasing; if the state government has the power to license and train gun shop employees to know a straw purchase when they see one, it could become significantly harder for prospective shooters to get their hands on a deadly weapon. The grassroots fight against the NRA’s extreme agenda and limitless resources has been tough, but such measures have been passed twice before, and with current political trends being what they are, it seems like only a matter of time before we take the next step to make this state a safer place for students of all ages.
Till next time,