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Amidst The Chaos: What the Rise in Gun Violence Means for an Average Teenager

I hurried around the house, collecting the many materials I would need for school that day. Chromebook, water bottle, one too few pens. My mother watched from the doorway of her room as I scurried around, nearly bumping into every surface in the house that had a corner.

“I don’t think you should go to school today,” she had said.

I had offered her a confused, mildly annoyed expression and asked why she advised such a thing. She could not offer me a direct answer, she only said that she’d be willing to give the school a ring and tell them I’d be working from home that day. I rallied against it, assuring her that I was fine and that I’d contact her if anything changed.

Already late for school, I promptly left the house and headed to the bus stop, my phone unfortunately dying on the way. As I approached the classroom, I noticed it was abnormally quiet. Usually, I’d be able to hear my teacher’s voice echoing down the hall and the commotion of the room from a few feet away.

“Did you get the email?”

That was the first thing asked of me by the person I sat next to. I first asked what email she was referring to; “The one the school had sent some minutes ago,” she had replied. I told her that my phone was dead, and I asked her to show me the email. My heart pounded as I scrolled through the text… there had been a school shooting threat and my school was allowing students to get dismissed early. Inconveniently enough, it was at that moment that my teacher had announced we were to write an essay. My hands shook intermittently. All I could think about while writing the essay was if the threat had truly passed like the email had claimed, if there was a shooter currently in the building.

I finished the essay as fast as my right hand allowed me to and texted my mother (my phone had been charging while I was writing the essay) asking her to call the front desk and get them to dismiss me, to trust me-- I’d explain everything when I returned home. The urgency of those messages must have convinced her because I soon found myself making a mad dash out of the building and back home, panting all the way.

My mother was unsurprised by what I told her. Upset, but unsurprised.

“My intuition told me something would happen,” she had said, tapping her forehead with her index finger. “Gun violence is plenty these days.”

Thankfully, the threat turned out to be a rumor, but in most cases, such is not typically false news spread through the grapevine.

There is seldom a day that goes by in which I don’t hear about someone being injured with a gun in D.C. I am no longer astonished when I hear of someone being maimed in Southeast or some other person arrested by force. While I once was shocked by such, those days are becoming harder and harder to remember.

As gun violence increases within the city it seems as if my mother’s restrictions on

travels for me do, as well. Last month, three people were shot in different altercations; mother prohibited me from taking brief trips to Silver Spring with my friends.

Two weeks ago, someone else was shot; no more lingering for me outside after the sky became dark. And when someone was rumored to threaten my school with violence, my mother began emailing me in the middle of the day, asking if I was all right, if I wanted her to get me dismissed from school. And what do you know? Many of my peers have claimed their parents are taking similar precautions.

Gun violence doesn’t just affect the perpetrator and their victim, it affects the world that surrounds them. It means clutching your belongings a little tighter in fear that a greedy robber might catch a glimpse of something they like on your person. It means constantly looking over your shoulder--“just to make sure.” It means parents lose sleep wondering if their child will fall victim to a shooter’s untrained aim as they return home from school. It means teenagers carrying mace on their person.

It means hysteria, misery, and mass discontent. For the sake of the public, surely, we can all find better ways to get what we want than with guns and deadly weapons.

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