Since Columbine, over 150,000 students have experienced a school shooting. For us, the idea of hiding for your life with gunshots around you does not conjure up the image of a war zone the way it did for many of our parents. Instead, it evokes the terrifying vision of a probable reality, one that could take place during a normal day at school.
Growing up as a millennial means living in constant fear. It means that by the age of 13, all of my friends and I had developed the survival skill of mapping an escape route every time we entered a room. It means that nearly every show that’s set in a high school features a school shooting episode because it doesn’t feel authentic enough without it. It means that getting ready for school in the morning is equivalent to preparing for battle.
In many ways we were, and still are, preparing for battle when we go out into our everyday lives. To put this into perspective, the average American has a greater chance of dying from gun violence in the United States than if they had fought in Iraq. Consequently, going about our normal lives is more deadly than going to a war zone.
Even more specifically, the odds of being killed in a mass shooting are one in 11,125. Although I didn’t come across any statistics providing the likelihood of a student being killed in a school shooting, we can imagine that the chances are quite high.
So, what has been done to protect us — the young, the innocent and the vulnerable? Absolutely nothing. Time and time again, our lawmakers have proven to us that the right to own guns and their payments from the National Rifle Association (NRA) are more valuable than our right to life.
We are the successors to a society that has adopted complacency as the default answer to its problems. But we are anything but complacent. We are the trailblazers of change and the welders of America’s future. For better or worse, we have already dramatically altered the landscape of our home by ushering in a new climate of tolerance and forcing laws into effect that reflect that atmosphere.
More than any other generation, millennials are self-aware; we realize that our actions have consequences and we act according to which side of history we would like to be on in the textbooks our children will read. Watch the brave Parkland survivors go face to face with congressmen and witness what our “brattiness” can accomplish to create a safer country. When you are the ones being hunted, see how quickly you are willing to throw politeness aside if that means no child ever has to watch their best friend get gunned down again.
These are our lives being threatened. If no one else is willing to take down the NRA’s hold on our society, then we will. Many complain that we are ignorant snowflakes, but I will be damned if my children fear for their lives every time they attend school. So I will wear that snowflake like a badge of honor because I know that each life is unique and infinitely more valuable than a gun.
Morgan Manganello is a junior majoring in integrative neuroscience.