For nearly twenty years our children have dealt with unprecedented gun violence in our schools and communities. No other generation has had to live with the fear of getting slaughtered at school, waking up to gun fire or ducking for cover in the middle of the night the way that Millennials and the iGeneration (iGen) have endured.
“I was only 12 as I sat in math class on October 8th,2012. I remember the sounds and the screams of my classmates … then I look down to my feet and I see a bullet next to my pink vans… After that day, I struggle with PTSD and still struggle with being afraid,” said Anahi Ballesteros a junior at Franklin High School in Stockton, CA.
Anahi was one of nearly 150 students from across California who joined me recently at the Capitol for a briefing on gun violence. I wanted to learn our youth’s concerns firsthand, and to hear how gun violence has affected their lives.
It pains me, not only as a lawmaker, but as a father, to admit that mass shootings have become normalized on our campuses and in our communities. Every young life lost is one too many. Our youth are crying out for help, demanding change and they need to be heard.
The Millennial generation was the first to experience a mass school shooting when, in 1999, students were shot and murdered at Columbine High School. Millennials responded by disrupting the political system with debates on gun control and the Second Amendment to U.S. Constitution. However, in the wake of the Stoneman Douglas mass shooting, our youth are speaking out and this time it feels different. iGen youth are demanding REAL change. This generation is not asking for a moment of silence or thoughts and prayers, they want real, tangible, policy changes. They want action.
“I’m 18; this is my first year that I will be able to vote…and I guarantee you that when I vote, [I] will not be voting for congressmen or representatives who put their money from [the] NRA…above the safety of students and youth in our country,” said Sam Macriss, a senior at Rio Americano High School in Carmichael, CA.
While California has some of the toughest gun laws in the country, the young leaders I met reminded all lawmakers, that there is a lot more work to be done, especially in communities where gun violence is a daily occurrence.
“Gun violence has affected my family and me very deeply, because we have lost many people to gun violence…my cousin was shot by his friends in the back of his head…[and] my brother was…gunned down in a car in a drive by. It’s sad that NOW we have people listening. It took a mass shooting for us to now pay attention as human beings, [to have] communities come together and start something new,” said Dymond Garrett, sophomore at Castlemont High School in Oakland, CA.
Dymond’s hope of communities coming together and starting something new is a blueprint of how change has been made in our nation. We can learn a lot from our country’s history in the way the Constitution has been amended for the grater good. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery; however, it took generations of debate, and struggle for the United States to change our founding documents.
It was the 14th, 15th, and 24thAmendments to the Constitution that finally gave former slaves, non-Whites, and women voting rights and equal protections under the Constitution.
Millinials and iGen are tired of telling us about the problem. They demand a solution. We can no longer ignore them, because they are the leaders of tomorrow. Their determination to prevent another generation from experiencing the same trauma could lead to amending the Second Amendment for the greater good of the county.