MILFORD - Outside of the Pike County Courthouse April 20, a few teens expressed their fears and shared their thoughts about the present gun conversations happening across the nation, while also honoring the victims of Columbine. 

While many students walked out of their schools across the country that day, since Delaware Valley School District wasn’t allowing it, a few chose to commemorate the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shootings on their own, and speak because, sophomore Abigail Reno said she doesn’t want “anyone else to die.”  Instead, the students “want change” with “some kind of gun control” that will come with “stricter gun laws” and “more thorough background checks.” 

Word of the event spread through word of mouth Reno said, because the district wasn’t “willing to publicize the event.” As a sophomore at DV, Reno does feel safe, but for the students at Parkland at one point they might’ve felt safe too and so, the “attitude of it won’t be my school” isn’t good because “we always need to be aware that it could happen anywhere.”

Australia’s example

When there was a shooting in Australia in 1996, Reno said 35 people were killed, and the Australian government responded by creating “stronger gun laws” as well as destroying more than six million guns and since then, “zero people” have been killed in mass shootings in Australia. But, in the United States since April 20 1999 there have been 544 lives lost from mass shootings. Those numbers are just a “fraction of the victims of shootings” because of the deaths not reported that are still the result of violence. The numbers of deaths, she called “unacceptable.” 

The way to honor those who have been killed, Reno said is to make sure the shootings don’t happen again, because “19 years of mass shooting is far more than enough and we need change.” Standing with Reno were her friends, who she said have discussed getting shot and they don’t want to talk about that anymore. Instead, they shouldn’t have to “lead a revolution for the simple right to live.” To address the issues, people must “stay active in this fight” with students continuing to make their “voices heard.”

Fears the possibility

Abigail Babitz, also a sophomore said she fears sitting in class one day and hearing shots and then, having to barricade the door hoping to be safe. Since she is tired of thinking like this, Babitz has decided not to accept this way and while she doesn’t want all guns to be taken away, she does “demand” that the second amendment “should be improved and changed.” The reality is that, “times have changed, guns have changed” and so, “its time our laws change with them.” The changes won’t mean rights be taken away, just that “no one should have this fear” as they feel “enough is enough.” Babitz said, she doesn’t “want your thoughts and prayers, I want your action.”

Flora Trost, told the crowd that she is scared and she shouldn’t have to be. While Trost doesn’t feel she should be afraid, the noises caused by students popping chip bags in the cafeteria are preparing her, “for what could be my end,” she said. Trost asked, “Why is America so unwilling to change an amendment meant to be changed as we, a society progress.” While the second amendment has a place, Trost doesn’t feel it should outweigh her right to an education or to live. But, “it does, time and time again” as students send their thoughts and prayers. There being no changes to the Second Amendment, means it has been more protection then her own life, the lives of her friends, and the lives of the many victims of the various mass shootings.

Worth trying

A senior, Collin Kawan-Henler said he too has been “afraid and overwhelmed” in school, because the horror happening at the other schools “felt so real.” For those who argue its people who kill people, not the guns who kill people, Kawan-Henler wishes an agreement could be made to “create an ideal world.”

While the possibility of that happening isn’t known yet, he said he feels it is “worth trying.”

With plans already created to address the gun violence, just because they haven’t worked, that doesn’t mean people should give up he said. Instead, a consensus needs to be reached because he doesn’t feel there is any “justification for semi-automatic weapons.” The problem is larger than people being shot at schools, because he doesn’t feel anyone, anywhere should be shot. Whether a person thinks it’s the gun or the person with the gun, Kawan-Henler said everyone “should at least be seriously committed to figure out what kills people and trying to solve it.”

A woman in the public named Debbie mentioned how the discussion of guns tends to be against those who own guns, but that’s not the problem. Instead, as someone who grew up with guns in her home, she wanted people to know that not everyone who uses guns, lives their lives around a “piece of metal.” Instead, they feel more than just background checks need to happen.   

After they spoke to the crowd, Trost said she wanted to participate because the “lack of action” surrounding the mass shootings is “ridiculous.” The issue is safety and “trying to live” without being afraid. While aware that there are safety officers in the school, they can’t be everywhere and so, there are times she feels unsafe.  

Earlier last week, Reno spoke to the board of education regarding the national walkout and from that, she said the board wasn’t very receptive. So, looking to the future, at this time Reno would like to have similar events but create them through a club for students. She has created a group on Facebook, a “young democrats club” that she has to present to the board of education, so students can have political events. The reason she has taken it upon herself to work with her friends is because she doesn’t “want to see people die” she said.

Superintendent responds

A few days after the students’ gathering, in an email Dr. John Bell, the superintendent of DV said there were activities for students on the “walkout days” in March and most recently. In March, students wrote letters to federal legislators about school safety, that were hand delivered to their Washington offices when DV administrators were in town for a conference. As well, there was a voter registration drive, with more than 61 students registered to vote.

As for commemorating the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting, Bell said the district has been a part of the Rachel Scott Foundation for some time, which aims to create an “inclusive culture.” Scott was the first student killed at Columbine. The Friends of Rachel club was created in the district five years ago, and has since led activities like those that occurred last Friday, where there is discussion about kindness and unity. From that, students made unity chains that consisted of messages and quotes about kindness. 

Bell said the activities that have happened at the school during the two walkout days, were planned by class officers and student council members and are “more effective” than walking outside and standing by the flagpole. Decades ago, a board policy was created banning student walkouts and protests because the goal is to have students “civically involved.” Students can walk out however, but “on their own time.” If they were to walk out during school, that is “considered skipping class,” said Bell.