For all the horrible scenarios I had in mind for my first day of high school, a shooting never crossed my mind.
It was fourth period and we were just about to watch a movie when the intercom crackled. My principal declared, "We are in a lockdown."
Initially, I wasn't scared. I was curious -- even excited. My whole class was. Because "lockdown" sounded like something straight out of CSI.
But we had no idea that someone had just gotten shot. We had no idea that soon, the whole school -- the whole community -- would be in a state which my government teacher labeled "controlled chaos."
It took almost half an hour for us to realize that something was very wrong. The sounds of sirens, the glimpses of police officers, and the presence of ambulances -- it was apparent that this was no ordinary emergency. As my friends and I were discussing possible scenarios, a student -- totally terrified -- looked up from his phone and said, "Someone shot someone in the cafeteria."
A multitude of thoughts crossed my mind instantly. How could a student have a gun in the first place? Why would they shoot someone? Who got shot? How could a shooting take place in my school? And... and... what will happen next? Students around me voiced similar concerns. The media raised additional questions: How did the student get a gun inside the school building? Why weren't parents informed sooner?
Terrified parents, on the other hand, had only one question: "Is my child safe?"
But the question that worried me the most was: How could a student carry a gun in the first place?
This isn't the first school shooting. Since the year 2000, there have been 170 deaths resulting from approximately 70 school shootings here, in the U.S. And when it comes to gun violence at school, the U.S. leads the world.
The only way to ensure that this tragedy is the last in a long line of shootings is to enforce stricter gun control laws -- now. If the student hadn't had a gun, this tragedy would likely never have occurred.
Some believe that guns keep us safe, by granting us the ability to fight back. In reality, guns are doing anything but. In 2010, 8,775 of 12,996 murders in the U.S. were caused by firearms. Realizing that a trained officer has a hit ratio of 51 percent, do you really think a random person with a gun is able to shoot more accurately? During the recent Empire State Building shooting, eight people were injured by officers! Now, imagine if at that shooting, passersby had taken out their guns and started shooting at the suspect. The number of casualties would have been much more. Instead of helping the situation, guns would only have made it worse.
Mr. President, it is time for you to take a clear stance on gun control in America -- one that will keep students safe in schools. Remember what you said before taking a bold position on gay marriage: "You know, Malia and Sasha, they've got friends whose parents are same-sex couples. And there have been times where Michelle and I have been sitting around the dinner table. And we've been talking about their friends and their parents... that somehow their friends' parents would be treated differently. It doesn't make sense to them."
Mr. President, like Malia, I am in high school. On the first day of school, we all experienced the horror of a school shooting. My parents are sitting around the dinner table, wondering why our leaders have allowed hundreds of young lives to perish due to the lack of stricter gun control laws. And it's not making sense to us.
Mr. President, it's time for you to take yet another bold position, so no one ever has to wonder: How could a student carry a gun in the first place?
This article was previously published in the Baltimore Sun.