Gun Violence Prevention Speech by Eli Perlin

The first time that I remember hearing about a school shooting was the Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. I was in the 4th grade at the time. A friend and I had just finished playing tennis. We were sitting in the lobby of a tennis facility and we heard them talking about the shooting on TV. We watched as the news anchors described what had happened that day. That was also the first time I was ever truly scared of dying while at school. To see that a person was easily able to acquire a weapon and walk into a school to kill people terrified me. During the next couple of months, my school updated its security system and started to hold lockdown drills.

As I have grown up, these shootings have become more normal. I put these thoughts of fear in the back of my mind and carry on with my life. Every time there is one of these horrific events, it immediately shows up on the Internet and social media. My generation is constantly surrounded by details of these horrific events. I’ve seen the videos people have taken of the gunman attacking the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. I have seen the videos of concert goers running in fear because a gunman was shooting at them from a hotel window in Las Vegas; and I have seen scenes of children huddling in the back of a classroom as gunshots are heard in the hallway.

I have a friend who lives in Miami, Florida. After the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, he described opening his Snapchat and seeing the videos his friends had posted. The conversation we had left me feeling the same way I had in 4th grade. This time though, I am older and I am now able to be involved.

Over the past 4 years, there have been a total of 1,377 mass shootings. Since 2014 there have been 138 deaths that have resulted because of school shootings. And over 14,000 people under the age of 17 have been injured or killed because of gun violence in the United States. This cycle has gone on for way too long.

After each of these shootings we hear government officials offer their prayers and condolences, and ultimately promise change. This promise of change has continuously been broken, by Democrats and Republicans alike.

No student should have to go to school worried that he or she is going to die or be hurt. No parents should worry that they will never see their children again after they leave for school. No teacher should have to wonder, “What would I do if a shooter enters the building right now?” No one should be scared to go to their church, temple or mosque and worry about dying. No family should worry about going to a movie and being shot.

Something must change! This system has continued to repeat and repeat and repeat. We, as a community, must stand up so that we are not constantly living our lives in fear. Over the past four weeks we have seen the resilience of the survivors of the Parkland shooting, now we must stand in solidarity with them and demand action. It is not enough for us to just offer them our prayers. We must join them and fight so that no one has to lose a teacher, a student, or a friend, a daughter or son, a father or mother, or another family member to gun violence ever again.