Find safety in a healthy society
Hochella is a student at Blacksburg Middle School.
I am a 14-year-old girl living in Blacksburg. It seems like yesterday, but the
Virginia Tech massacre was three years ago. It often still comes back in my
I was in fifth grade when it happened. It was a normal day, but our teacher
said that she was going to lock our doors because of high winds. I thought
that this was strange because we have had windy days before and did not lock
At the end of the school day, our teacher told us that when we got home, our
parents would tell us something that happened during the day and that was why
the doors were locked.
When I got home, my parents told me there had been a massacre at Virginia Tech
that day. I was devastated by the news.
I was even more frightened when I found out that my parents were both only 100
yards from the tragedy. I cannot imagine how awful it would be to lose my
parents. This was the deadliest peacetime shooting incident by one person in
United States history.
In a single year in the United States, more than 8,000 people are murdered by
handguns. About 3,000 are children and teens. If you look at the murder rate
with guns per 100,000 people, Mexico is not much worse than our country. And
Mexico has a huge drug war going on.
Japan, on the other hand, has essentially no murders by guns, and in 2002, not
one child was killed by a gun.
The truth is that people both for and against gun control laws know that we
have an incredibly serious problem. They just have very different opinions on
what to do about it.
Frankly, none of the solutions I hear from either side make much sense to me.
For example, some say that if more and more people started to carry guns to
protect themselves, we'd all be safer. But I think that we would have even
more gun tragedies. Pretty soon, I'd start seeing guns carried around
everywhere by everybody, and that would be really scary, sort of like an old
Wild West movie.
Another example is that we should close the loopholes for selling guns at gun
shows and for background checks for mental health. But closing these loopholes
would not keep bad or crazy people from getting guns.
We are missing two things. First, how can we make a difference if both sides
do not work together? Second, maybe it is not the guns after all, but the
people and the society in which they live.
Maybe our society has failed us. Many people today simply have not been taught
right from wrong. And of the 300 million people in the United States, about 55
million are living in poverty, according to StateHealthFacts.org. That's about
one in six people.
Both of these things and many others make people angry and desperate. And the
violence that results too often ends in gun tragedies. This happened at Tech,
and I almost lost my parents.
We have the right to bear arms, but I think a much more important right is to
live a long life without fear from people who carry and use guns to harm
others. This more important right can come true only with a healthier society
and with common-sense laws.
That's where politicians, working together, should put their energy. This is
not about Democrats or Republicans, and it is not about liberals or
conservatives. It is about children like me.