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Contest Winners #243
What Do You Think About the Florida Teen Activists?
Writing Contest Winners

1st Prize
Teachers Are Not Soldiers

The #NeverAgain movement advocates for gun control reform on a nationwide scale, including banning assault weapons, extensive background checks, and registering youth to vote. The teen activists have also spoken out on mental health and what that means for gun owners. I agree with these points. No one needs an assault weapon or the devices that can be used to turn a gun into one.

I can see where activists who oppose gun reform are coming from; they are afraid of their rights being taken away. But no one is calling for a ban on all weapons. People are demanding steps be taken to protect our students and citizens, so that those with a history of violence are not able to purchase a weapon and those with mental health issues receive proper and affordable treatment.

Arming teachers is not the answer. Teachers are not soldiers. Students won’t feel safe, and there is a significant risk. Teachers need to be armed with new textbooks, supplies for students, more training, school psychologists, school social workers, and more guidance counselors. These professionals will help look for students who may suffer from mental health issues and be able to intervene before lives are taken. The #NeverAgain movement has inspired me to have strong beliefs about gun control and how the country should begin to allocate resources.

Taliah Alexander, 17
New Dorp HS
Staten Island, NY

2nd Prize
Teens Have the Power to Effect Change

The #NeverAgain movement is a remarkable reminder that we have the power to bring change into this world. The freedom to participate in peaceful protests is truly a privilege. I participated in one on March 24. It was my first protest and an uplifting experience. Prior to this, I wasn’t very fond of protesting. March 24 was a critical moment in my life.

Students at my school made banners that read, “When politicians act like kids, we act like adults.” This phrase fits perfectly with how the Trump administration reacted to the shooting. Trump proposed giving teachers guns so that they could protect themselves and their students. Fight guns with more guns? This is not the way to resolve this issue.

This is a democracy, and if we notice something that we don’t like, we have the power to change it. The outcome of these protests has done a few things in favor of gun laws. But as a society, we must do more than restrict guns. We need to encourage our youth to end gun violence for good. The teens in Florida who spoke out are a true inspiration to other teenagers around the globe, including myself.

Chantel Ramos, 15
HS of Fashion Industries
New York, NY

3rd Prize
No Shame in Seeking Help

The Florida high school students believe that gun access should be restricted. I agree with the students that we should try as hard as possible to avoid any further shootings.

However, I don’t believe that restricting all guns is the solution. There are many instances where guns have been used to save people. Firearms are tools, and they can be used for bad intentions just like any other tool.

I believe that we should focus on the actual people behind the atrocities. Many people are going through problems and don’t feel that they can get help. It can build up and possibly escalate into something undesirable. People need to know that there is help available and should not feel ashamed to seek it out,

Jason Mui, 18
New Dorp HS
Staten Island, NY

Runners Up

image by Wikimedia Commons

Not Just “Kids”
I was born into a world where school shootings were already becoming increasingly common. But 18 years later, hardly any changes have been made to the law to try to end them.

The Florida teen activists have been brave, smart, and well spoken. My mother and many adults are impressed by the language and sophistication that these teens have, which only helps the cause because it shows that they are not just “kids.” They have also been successful in their use of social media, which has expanded the cause to reach ears all over the world and get wide support for the nationwide school walkout.

In my school, students worked with faculty to create a school “walk with” to show that the school supported the students. The students led the ceremony and it was peaceful. In one class, a discussion took place between a teacher and several students, and I was proud that many students were educated and proved to the teacher that we knew what we were talking about. This discussion would have never taken place had it not been for the Florida teen activists.

Anonymous, 17
Archbishop Molloy HS
Briarwood, NY

There’s No War in This Country
I agree with the Florida high school students that gun access should be restricted. The tragedy that befell the students of Majory Stoneman Douglas High School was preventable. If the shooter had shown signs of being mentally disturbed, then he shouldn’t have been allowed to own a gun. The NRA has been denying that they are doing anything wrong, and that is not true. The Second Amendment was created during a time when there was war at every doorstep. The NRA should not be able to use this as justification for giving anyone a gun, because we do not have a war occurring in our country.

We live in an era when students aren’t backing down and are fighting back with all their might. I believe that their actions will make change.

Rocio Alvarez, 15
New Dorp HS
Staten Island, NY

Teens Are Changing the Cycle
The teens who survived the tragic Florida shooting are doing something that no one would have expected. Many people sadly assumed this shooting would be like any other: People die, someone gets blamed, people post about it and mourn, and then we move on, hoping our school is not next. But these teens are changing the cycle. Months after the shooting, we are still hearing about the amazing things these teens are doing to make sure that something like this does not happen again.

But it’s not enough. On April 22, a mass shooting occurred at a Waffle House restaurant in Nashville, Tennessee. The shooter used an AR-15 to slaughter four people. He would have killed more people if James Shaw, Jr., had not wrestled the weapon out of the shooter’s hand. I am not saying that all guns should be banned, but I do think that the AR-15 and other assault-style rifles should not be sold to citizens. I think the problem will not end by banning guns; we have to have more background checks and stress the importance of mental health much more than we do now.

We need more people like the Florida teens and James Shaw, Jr., to fight for the world they want to see. Because right now, with the AR-15 out on the streets, what makes this country different than a war zone?

Bilikisu Amunikoro, 15
New Dorp HS
Staten Island, NY

Guns Have a Place, But It’s Not Schools
I agree with the protesting Florida high school students: Gun access should be restricted. I believe that while people should be able to protect their families in their homes, students should also be protected in schools. Guns should not be allowed on school property, and should be restricted to households and used for protection only.

It is important that people understand how significant our First and Second Amendments are. The teens in Florida are using the First Amendment in the right way. I do not agree with taking our Second Amendment rights away. That is not the right choice. Nevertheless, I do not think there is an easy answer for this horrifying occurrence in Florida.

Seth Feliz, 17
Achieve Alternative HS
Hawthorne, NY

Gun Laws Need to Change
As a student, when I wake up every morning, I get ready to go to school and kiss my mom’s forehead because I might never come back. My morning thought is not, “What grade will I get in class?” but, “Will I even be alive?” Students like Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, and others are inspiring figures for our country. They are trying to get the work done that adults can’t do.

I also participated in the movement by organizing a march from our school. I do not think that a citizen should ever have a military-style weapon like an AR-15. Technology has changed since the Second Amendment was adopted in 1791, but the laws were kept the same. I am not against the Second Amendment. It is as important as the First Amendment, which gives me the right to express myself freely. I beg for a change: gun control. It is necessary to stop the violence across the country.

Kazi Nur, 17
Brooklyn International HS
Brooklyn, NY

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