“One is Too Many”

by The Cowl Editor on September 16, 2021


“One is Too Many”

Mass Shootings’ Prevalence in American School Culture

by Julia McCoy

Trigger Warning: This article contains discussion of gun violence

On December 14, 2012, there was a school shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty students and six staff members were killed in the attack with countless more affected for life. Nine years later, this is an event that most American citizens still have some recollection of. What might not come across our minds as readily is the fact that the children who were in the elementary school that day are now high school-aged. 

That means that there are twenty unoccupied lockers at Newtown High School and an entire class of students who have matured and seen virtually no change in gun control policy. 

What this reminds us is that so much time has passed since these children, who were in Kindergarten and First Grade at the time, fell victim to gun violence. Nine years have passed, and rather than milestones towards improvement, it is almost as if we have accepted this as the norm. 

No one should want an event like this to repeat. Not even once in a decade. However, in just under a decade in the United States, there have been over 2,000 mass shootings in a variety of public spaces. The events at Sandy Hook weren’t even the first catalyst of these conversations. Years before, at Columbine High School, older generations were forced into this rude awakening. We’ve gotten to a point where every generation will be able to point to a mass shooting as the moment they became aware of the dangers of sitting in a classroom. And what have we done to try and stop this? Nothing. We’ve adapted to the issue, rather than attacking it.


In the back-to-school regimen that traditionally has involved fire and tornado drills, students are now also equipped with intense active shooter training and practices at the onset of each school year. Of course, we can’t control a fire, tornado, or even a nuclear threat that students in the ‘80s were once trained to handle, but school shootings seem like a phenomenon that could have more access to mitigation than a natural disaster. Would we rather succumb to the norm than make any change?

Certainly not. At least not among teens and young adults who have been most recently impacted by these issues. At least 1.2 million people participated in the initial March for Our Lives protests after the February 14, 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. With March for Our Lives and other organizations gaining prominence in the past few years, it seems fair to say that it is not a matter of a lack of acknowledgment, but rather an apathy and lack of reaction from those with power. 

At times, it has seemed that the most these activist groups would get from powerful organizations like the National Rifle Association (NRA) were the obligatory “thoughts and prayers” that follow every gun massacre of American citizens. But to use this article as a call to action for apathetic organizations would fall on deaf ears. Gun control policy has remained exactly the same as it was nine years ago when these students were in elementary school. 

There has yet to be meaningful change, and that can be disappointing. But what matters most is that people who are affected by these issues – whether personally or not – continue to remember and advocate for those who do not have a voice. Though governmental policy and even protocol in schools tend to treat this as a norm, it must be remembered that this is not normal. 

As Amanda Talbot ’15, whose family lived in Newtown in 2012, said in a letter to The Cowl, “twenty-six is too many – one is too many.” This is something to remember as a new school year starts.