Op-Ed: On Parkland shooting anniversary, teens like me won’t forget the politicians who stopped gun reform

In 2023, a woman visits a memorial with photos of the 17 people killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting. This week marked the sixth anniversary of the shooting, which left 17 students and staff dead. (Photo by Saul Martinez/Getty Images)

By Maya Wood

February 15, 2024

Six years ago this week, a gunman killed 17 students and staff in a Florida high school. A NC teen writes on what it’s like growing up in the shadow of that.

[Editor’s Note: The following is an op-ed written by an 11th-grader in Winston-Salem, NC, on the sixth anniversary of the deadly Parkland school shootings.]

Adults talk about how guns are becoming a problem, but as a teenager, I’ve never known anything different.

People talk about how public spaces used to feel safe, and large crowds used to bring warmth rather than cold. To me, being out and about has always been at least a little frightening, and school has never felt like home.

Read More: The reality of gun violence in rural North Carolina

Two years ago, my community suffered the horror of a school shooting at a neighboring high school. I was a brand new freshman, and although it didn’t happen at my school, I feared for my friends who had to hide in dim classrooms, and the parents who had to pick them up from their bus stop.

I feared for my school, for other schools, for the boy who was shot and killed. We all wondered who would be next. After the incident, nearly every high school in the county had a walkout to pay respects and highlight the intense need for reform from our legislature. And yet, no change was enacted.

Like every other kid in the nation, I know what it’s like to be constantly aware of gun violence. I remember rushing to turn the lights off, staying silent, cowering in the corner of my classroom along with my petrified classmates at every school and every grade.

When I was in the 6th grade, my teacher told us during our drills that we had to crouch in just the right spot, because a shooter would be able to see us through the window if they stood on the ramp to our building.

How disgusting is it that we make children responsible for protecting themselves from gun violence? Currently, in the United States, gun violence is the leading cause of death in children, and all we hear about is how we are responsible for staying away from it.

This year, I had a friend and classmate pass away due to gun violence. The day was going just as any other, mundane classes flowing by at a sloth pace, until the third period. An article popped up on our phones and the teacher was given a statement, and that was it.

Someone I had seen and laughed with the previous day was gone. A loss like that doesn’t simply go away, and our community will forever be haunted by her passing. Unfortunately, her story is not unique. Because more people are gaining access to firearms with little regulation, more families have guns in their homes, and there’s a greater chance of them going off.

The deadliest high school shooting happened six years ago in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 innocent people. Mark Robinson, our lieutenant governor and the leading Republican candidate to be our next governor, mocks and denies gun violence, specifically the Parkland shooting, all while accepting tens of thousands of dollars from the National Rifle Association.

Robinson has openly attacked the survivors of the shooting, calling the students “spoiled little bastards” and “silly little immature ‘media prosti-tots’” who need to “shut up.”

Not only has this grown man directly insulted the survivors of this devastating event with demeaning names, but he also continues to normalize school shootings as a whole.

Mark Robinson has argued that school shootings being almost commonplace is no shock because public education is “the domain of the cunning and wicked.”

This man has decided that allowing every child a proper education is innately evil, and that shooters invade schools specifically for this reason. He also bizarrely and cruelly blames the absence of mandated prayer at school to be the reason shootings exist.

I turn 18 in a year, and will finally be allowed to vote. What my generation has been subjected to in terms of gun violence and a lack of policy will not go unnoticed.

As we gain the right to vote, we will not forget what politicians like Mark Robinson have said and done, nor what they have been reluctant to say or do.

As for myself and my classmates, we will not forget the fear we have felt our entire lives. The effects of gun violence have been branded onto this generation, and when we go to cast our votes, we will vote for leaders who will have real solutions to gun violence.


  • Maya Wood

    Maya Wood is an 11th grader at Atkins High School in Winston-Salem. Maya, much like other students across the state and U.S., is keenly aware of the impact of loosened gun control policies.



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