Young voices are powerful, and in regard to shootings in our schools, we can be an invaluable force for change.

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SCHOOLS are places where lives should be enriched, not lost.

Too many campuses have been pierced by too many bullets: Marysville-Pilchuck High School, Seattle Pacific University, Everett Community College and North Thurston High School, to name a few. At least 13 school shootings have taken place in Washington state since 1994, and at least 161 school shootings in America since 2013.

While we may feel removed from the pro-gun culture prevalent in other states, the absence of common-sense gun laws is felt in Washington as acutely as in Florida, California and Connecticut.

‘My take’

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I was educated in both the Seattle Archdiocese and Seattle Public Schools systems. Now at college in New York, when I hear of school shootings, my fear bounds across the 3,000 miles to home. I think of young faces, backpacks and lunch bells. We all know that fear. We need to use this fear to propel us into taking action.

Hannah Story Brown, 19, grew up in Seattle and now attends Columbia University, with a prospective major in political science and human rights.
Hannah Story Brown, 19, grew up in Seattle and now attends Columbia University, with a prospective major in political science and human rights.

The 2015 census reports that millennials like myself, born between 1982 and 2000, represent more than one-quarter of the nation’s population. Yet only about 23 percent of us voted in the 2014 midterm elections. While those older than 65 make up about 14 percent of all Americans, nearly 60 percent cast a vote in 2014.

Our young voices are vastly underrepresented in politics, and that is, at least in part, by our own neglect.

It is not as if young people are unaffected by politics. Indeed, as newly independent adults, we are some of the most vulnerable to the effects of policymaking. When schools are targeted by shooters, we are the ones endangered.

Young people are not the only ones who suffer — gun violence is a uniquely American affliction. Yet with our schools threatened by gun violence, young people have a unique role to play in changing that reality.

There have been almost 100 school shootings, including fatal and nonfatal assaults, suicides and unintentional shootings, since the horrific shooting in Newtown, Conn., three years ago, according to Everytown Research. As Everytown reports, “Gunfire in our schools shatters the sense of security that these institutions are meant to foster.”

Virginia Woolf once described the emotion of fear as “sterile, infertile.” Calling for peace during World War II, she wrote that “all thinking stopped” in moments of violence, but when fear passes, “the mind reaches out and instinctively revives itself by trying to create.”

Let us try to create, then. Let us create a society where the ability to live in peace is cherished more than the capacity to fight.

There are many places where change can start, but I write now to young people because I know we have much to say. Young voices are powerful. And in regard to shootings in our schools, we can be an invaluable force for change. These are our spaces! Let us take back what they need to be for us: places not of violence or fear, but of personal growth.

Let us take responsibility for our right to life and education. Let us vote for stricter gun-control laws. Let us become a generation that will not stand for violence against us. Let us hold ourselves, and our government, accountable.

Let us choose action for peace.