Dear Senator Bob Casey Jr.,
I am writing to you as a concerned 16 year old student from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, knowing that your office, as well as the offices of other Senators across the United States, has been receiving letters by the thousands from students like me with concerns. Although I can only hope that this reaches you, I’ve still decided to try to be heard—because although your generation holds political power, peers of mine are being murdered on an unprecedented scale by violence in schools. Therefore, it is my generation’s problem, our crisis that we choose to fully engage in as we become adults. I urge you to take our concerns, our letters, and our phone calls seriously, as we are a generation coming of age, fully prepared to put forth our fullest efforts to remedy an epidemic of our generation.
Although I am also sure that many of these letters which you receive contain impassioned remarks or first-hand accounts, I would like to offer an analogy that resonates strongly with my age of peers, but that I believe could offer clarity to many. In Pennsylvania, at the age of sixteen, a person is able to take a driver’s permit test, so long as they haven’t committed any crimes in the past and they remember to bring their social security card, proper forms, and birth certificate. After taking this test, they must spend six months learning how to operate the vehicle with a licensed driver over the age of 21, after which they must schedule an appointment to meet with a trained test-giver at a Pennsylvania state-operated licensing center. This waiting process, these tests, have all been designed because a car is a fairly dangerous machine that, if one doesn’t know how to use properly, could potentially kill people. Furthermore, cars cannot be driven without their car-specific keys. Their capacity to be driven, and therefore to potentially kill a person, can only function if a person possesses the keys to start the car.
Yet, what many of us find ironic, is that weapons, specifically guns, which have been designed and refined over thousands of years to kill most efficiently, can be bought at my local grocery store without a license, training, or test, and can be brought to our homes and to our schools and used the same day. We find this ironic because if something not designed to kill, and even optimized be as safe as possible takes us 6 months, two tests, insurance, various forms of identification, and keys to operate, then why should something that’s been optimized for killing be able to be bought in a single day, with no tests, no insurance, no identification, and no locking mechanism? This disparity is concerning, and we look to you for an explanation, a solution, at least to consider a change.
Someone wrote that “In America, they say the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. But that just sounds like someone trying to sell two guns.” We do not want more guns, we do not need more weapons, we do not want more of the things that are killing us. This is not how we choose to fight school violence. We choose to win as we have been taught our entire lives, not by bringing a knife to a gun fight, but using our words and our minds. And we plan to win.
I’d like to wrap up with a story I read about a young girl who came home from school, crying to her mother because she needed new shoes. She told her mother that during an active shooter drill at school, she realized that her light-up Sketchers would give her away to a shooter. A girl, young and innocent enough to be wearing light-up Sketchers, has to worry about her life being taken away while she attends school because of her sneakers. I believe that this speaks for itself, and I write on behalf of this girl, on behalf of the students who can no longer write because their lives have been ended, and on behalf of our entire generation, a generation which I believe will not give up this fight.
Thank you for your time, your thoughts, your consideration of our beliefs, and your recognition of the endangerment of our lives.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.