It wasn’t until I was 17 years old that I learned both of my parents had faced down the barrel of a gun.
My mom and dad — both teachers — had a gun threat on their campus at Cocopah Middle School in Scottsdale, Arizona, in 2006. At the time, my sister and I were at school five minutes away, in lockdown.
Unknown to me, an armed SWAT team entered both of my parents’ classrooms that day. When their classroom doors swung open for students to be evacuated, it was my parents in the crosshairs of assault rifles — in front of students who were inducted into the “lockdown generation.”
Let me explain what I mean by “lockdown generation.” I was born in 2000, one year after the Columbine school shooting that left 13 dead at a Colorado high school.
Before Columbine, most students didn’t experience active shooter trainings or lockdown drills when they were on a school campus. In fact, it wasn’t until the academic year of 2005-06 — the year I entered kindergarten, and the year SWAT entered my parents’ classrooms — that more than 40% of public schools in the nation began implementing these procedures and drills, according to the National Education Association. By 2015-16, as I entered high school, this percentage had increased to 95%.
Since Columbine, there have been 256,000 children impacted by gun violence in schools, and 284 school shootings, according to a database compiled by the Washington Post.
My entire family has lived through 21 years in which we’ve known the exact procedure for if a gunman walked onto our campus. Generation Z is the only generation to know, since kindergarten, the terror of practicing what we’d do if someone attempted to kill us in our classroom.
My parents adapted to the “lockdown generation” in their classrooms, albeit in a traumatic manner I didn’t learn about until long after the fact. But me — I was born into it.
Over my 21 years, I’ve heard many solutions proposed to end this epidemic of gun violence on school grounds. But one argument in particular has never made sense to me.
It goes like this: “A good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun.” This argument posits that, with more guns on campus, students and teachers alike will feel more safe at school. It is one that, to me, is inherently untrue.
This year, with House Bill 102 passing in Montana’s legislative session, allowing concealed carry of firearms on UM’s campus, the “good guy with a gun” argument has followed me to college.
HB 102 is currently tied up in court. But should it come out of court unscathed and be put into action on UM’s campus, I’ll have the fear that a bad guy with a gun and a good guy with a gun will become indistinguishable at my school. Rather, a person carrying on campus would just be a person with a gun — a concept that, for me, a member of the “lockdown generation,” is bone-chilling.
According to a 2015 Gallup poll, 56% of Americans do believe a “good guy with a gun” (someone concealed-carrying following the passage of a background check and training course) would make them feel safer.
But according to a new study published in May 2020, states with more permissive concealed carry laws have a 53.5% increase in mass shootings, compared to a state with average concealed carry laws.
With the passage of HB 102, Montana’s concealed carry laws became the most permissive in the country on college campuses.
As for my family, my dad is retired now, but my mom is still a teacher in Montana. And for her, the trauma of gun violence in her career hasn’t come from a gunman firing shots at her. It came from the good guy with a gun bursting into her classroom as she had to face him down, feigning calmness, in front of a classroom full of students.
This is the reality of the “good guy with a gun” argument. At the end of the day, regardless of one’s moral proclivities, a person with a gun is a person with a gun. For a generation of students like me, along with teachers like my parents, that “guy with a gun” — regardless of who it is — has caused a lifetime of fear.