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Enough is Never Enough

Vigil after the mass shooting at NIU in 2008. | NIU Media Services — Wade Duerkes and Scott Walstrom

February 14, 2008, I was at after-school rehearsal for my high school’s spring play when a classmate looked at her phone and exclaimed to us all that there had been a shooting at Northern Illinois University, the college just up the road.

This was before widespread cell phone access among teens, and there certainly were no smart phones. The rest of us without phones had no way of getting in touch with our parents and no way to look up exactly where and when the shooting took place. This was particularly alarming for me because my dad worked for NIU. For all I knew, my dad had been shot.

He was safe, but nothing felt safe. This was a year after the shooting at Virginia Tech, but mass shootings weren’t commonplace. No one ever thought it would happen to us and our community was shaken to its core.

My high school went through a host of security changes in light of the shooting next door. We were no longer allowed in the building before 7:45. We were no longer allowed to carry backpacks through the halls; only clear bags were allowed, and by the end of the year bags of all kinds were banned. Teachers locked classroom doors during class hours. An armed police officer was assigned to patrol our school. None of these measures were perfect, and some of them weren’t particularly reasonable, but they were all we had at the time — that, and the hope that it was enough.

When it was my time to go to college, I ended up attending NIU, and none of those security protocols were in place. Classroom doors were wide open and anyone could come and go as they pleased. I found myself consciously strategizing where I should sit in relation to the door should an active shooter appear. It was all I had — that, and the hope that it was enough.

We all know that it wasn’t enough. Fast forward to February 14, 2018. As my town was holding vigils for the 10 year anniversary of our mass shooting, another mass shooting was taking place in Parkland, Florida, where 17 lives were lost.

The Parkland students had something I and the NIU students didn’t have 10 years ago. They had smartphones. They had Twitter. They created a national movement in days. They marched for our lives. They said “never again,” and “enough is enough.”

But enough still wasn’t enough. Mere months later, another high school in Santa Fe, Texas lost 10 lives to senseless gun violence. A school shooting is business as usual in America. We’ve had 22 school shootings in the past five months. The shooting at NIU, where only five people were killed, would barely make the news today.

It has become a much different world over the past 10 years. Until high school, the thought of a school shooting happening to me would never have crossed my mind. Now kindergarteners are taught how to run in a zig-zag pattern to avoid getting shot.

And it’s not just in schools. My church has an armed police officer on duty during every service, a BluePoint alarm system that will call in a SWAT team, and door barricades for the children’s rooms in case there isn’t time to evacuate.

Armed guards, metal detectors, and locked doors are attempted safeguards, but they aren’t proven to actually make us safer. They’re arbitrary stop-gaps that we put in place to make the issue about something other than guns. Once you start talking about guns things get political and polarizing. But why? Why is our safety a matter that’s drawn across party lines?

It’s because we don’t want to admit that we care more about our guns than we care about our kids. If you think that’s unfair, please prove me wrong. Offer up a solitary shred of evidence that we care more about safety than we care about owning firearms.

Every time there’s a mass shooting, gun sales usually spike. America needs to be pro-gun like it needs to breathe the air. We live for guns. Guns mean freedom, and when people start talking about taking away our freedom, we will gladly offer up our children as sacrificial lambs.

Our answer to the Parkland students, the Santa Fe students, and all the students before them and after them is to cling to the 2nd Amendment as moral validation for their deaths.

We watched the kids march. We heard their cry. We didn’t care. Enough is never enough for us.

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