OPINION | What’s it going to take to make this stop?

I was a sophomore in high school on Feb. 14, 2018. I remember reading about the Parkland shooting on my phone and texting my parents to tell them I love them. You never know when something’s going to happen.

I remember two fellow students who organized a walk out that I proudly participated in. I remember my 15-year-old self sitting at a table in the cafeteria and typing out on my phone: “We are just an ordinary school with happy students and hurt ones, tall students and short ones, popular students and lonely ones. All we ask is security. All we want is to feel like we can go to school without fear.” I remember my shaking hands clutched around a megaphone, hoping and praying it would make a little bit of difference.

Almost exactly six years later, I woke up to frightened texts from friends and family asking if I was safe because there had been a shooting on campus. I don’t live on campus, so I was fortunately distant from the scene, but as soon as I saw, I had several texts of my own to send to friends in the dorms.

It is a painful and heartbreaking day to have the phrase “it could happen to any of us” suddenly become a reality. So many students in America open the news to the next shooting and feel a deep dread in the pit of their stomach that someday, it will be their school on the screen and that the “2024 UCCS shooting” will be another statistic on a list.

Sam Knopp, one of the victims of the shooting, was a fellow music student in the VAPA department. I sat in the Margot Lane rehearsal hall earlier today, listening to my peers and teachers reminisce about Sam’s enthusiasm for music and his community. The fear we experienced while we waited to hear who died, and then the grief we experienced when we learned who knew him, are going to leave a mark on all students, especially VAPA students, for the rest of our lives.

I had hoped at 15 that I wouldn’t have to revisit this theme, because it seemed to me only natural that when violence of this nature occurred, somebody would step up and protect us. Somebody would make it harder to get ahold of guns and make it harder for things like this to happen.

According to the Colorado Legal Defense Group, the three requirements to purchase a handgun are “being a Colorado resident… being at least 21 years old… [and] passing a CBI background check.”

People will be disqualified from handgun ownership if they “[seem] to be under the influence of a controlled substance” at the time of purchase or have a criminal record including but not limited to convicted felonies, drug addiction or restraining orders. “Undocumented aliens” are not allowed to purchase handguns.

Essentially, any adult over 21 can buy a handgun if they don’t seem intoxicated or have a criminal record. Assault weapons are also legal here, according to Everytown. It’s very easy for people to slip through the cracks.

I could point out how quickly New Zealand reacted to the Christchurch shooting in 2019. I could point out that Britain’s last mass shooting happened in 1996 and they passed major gun reforms a year later, according to NPR. I just don’t know if anyone would listen — we’ve been citing these statistics for years.

We will keep marching until we wear out our soles and shouting until our voices break and making signs until the rainforest runs out of paper to give us, but nothing will change unless the people in power decide to do something about this.

To those who argue that the gun violence epidemic is because of mental health problems, what about the students lining up to see counselors after a shooting? What about the families that lost their loved ones?

What about the teachers who take on the emotional weight of supporting their students and themselves? What about children training themselves to look for hiding places or exit routes in their classrooms? What about people who jump at the sound of a firecracker, or can’t sleep on the fourth of July?

Mental illness is absolutely a factor when understanding violence, but we don’t get to blame gun violence on mental illness when gun violence is causing the trauma that leads to mental illness.

To a country that claims to love its children as much as this one does, listen to them. They are terrified. They are grieving. They are hiding in their classrooms and their dorms. They are checking the news every five minutes, trying to find out if they lost someone today. Every single day, American students pay for their education with fear.

I don’t have stacks of money or political influence. I only have my prayers and my faith and my desperate hope that someday, our country will wake up, enact stricter gun reform and choose life.


This is a bleak article and a difficult time, but there are resources such as the Wellness Center and the TELUS Health Support App offering crisis support and counseling. Additional resources can be found here. UCCS, you are loved, and we will make it through this together.

Students at the conclusion of the Solidarity Walk. Photo by Lillian Davis.