At the age of 7, I lost my innocence.
My classmates and I sat in a circle in my elementary school’s library, listening intently to my first grade teacher read us the newly published novel "Holes." Suddenly, in a frantic whisper, the librarian called my teacher over. In a rush, we were ushered silently back to our classroom behind a locked door. There had been a school shooting at Columbine High School a mere 15 minutes from my school. Right then and there in that classroom on that fateful day, 20 first-graders’ innocence were shattered.
I never really understood violence until then — what 7-year-old should, after all? Yes, we knew bad people existed and bad things did happen, but never this close to home. I knew guns were bad, but I had never been exposed to so much gun violence. My innocent visions of a water gun were suddenly replaced by a sleeker, more violent black handgun. I was just 7 years old. It’s not right for someone that young to be exposed to something so deadly. Children should not be exposed to guns.
Yes, I agree that schools should do everything in their power to protect their students, but bringing guns to school is not the answer, at least not yet and not for children so young.
I remember right after Columbine happened, a local police officer stopped by to speak to each class individually about safety. I vividly remember his tall, friendly demeanor and the way he made sure to address each one of us. Yet, to many of my classmates and me, he was scary. He had a gun on his belt. The same thing that killed all those innocent lives at Columbine was in the same room as me. I knew the policeman was good, but I did not feel comfortable in the same room as a gun. It’s a scary thing to a 7 year old!
I became extremely insecure and scared in the days following Columbine, and I know many of my other classmates were as well. I was the same age as the children in the classrooms that were targeted during the Newtown shooting. I cannot even imagine how they felt in the aftermath.
I do not believe that allowing school officials to carry guns around school grounds is the answer, at least not yet. There are steps to ensure safety that needs to be taken first — why not install metal detectors or surveillance cameras? I know at my elementary school, a person has to be granted access into the building at all times through an intercom/video surveillance system. These steps should be taken before the schools resort to guns. I speak from experience when I say that I know to many students, any gun at all means they won’t feel safe. There are steps that can be taken in order to make a school safer.
A gun just isn’t one of them.
Kristen Herhold is a junior in the magazine sequence at the Missouri School of Journalism. She is from Greenwood Village, Colo.