We Must Demand Better

Photo from CNN.

Story by Opinion Editor Grace VanHaitsma

On the evening of February 13, 2023,  I was at rehearsal for Aquinas’s’ production of 9 to 5. As far as I knew, it was a completely normal evening with no major events. At the end of rehearsal, a cast member informed the rest of us that there was an active shooter at Michigan State University. 

It took a little bit for this news to sink in for me; I am a senior in college, was in the middle of a musical, and just had a lot going on. When you hear news of a tragic event, it can be hard to process. It was not until Wednesday of that week, at a Student Senate meeting, that I actually sat down and realized: people had been killed at MSU by a mass shooter. I know people that go to MSU, and so did my friends. And this could happen to us at any second. 

I have always felt incredibly safe at Aquinas. It is home to me, and the people and the buildings here provide me comfort. Each mass shooting is sobering, but especially so when it is at a college campus, even more so when it is close by. After the MSU shooting, I have been second guessing my safety. Many mornings I will wake up and think, “Will there be a shooting on campus today? What would I do?” I know there is no point of borrowing worry, but it is draining knowing that any second I could be next. 

The truth is that young people are tired. I am tired of having gun laws that allow people to purchase assault rifles and attack students on a campus. I am tired of people caring more about guns than children. It doesn’t matter if it’s elementary kids or college students, the government and many adults care more about money and rifles than the lives of people. I am tired of having to hear obituaries about kids my age that died from gun violence that were just trying to enjoy their college experience. I am tired of having to hear excuses for the shooter, or people blaming violence on race, or the assertion that gun control won’t do anything. Because at this point,  I just want us to try. 

On the Thursday after the MSU shooting, me and Lauren Cooper, a student worker for SAO, came up with the idea of a solidarity march on campus for MSU. After the dean approved it, we had one day to plan the march and make the event come together. I have heard a lot of complaints from people about the march and talk back since; that it didn’t do enough, that it was performative activism, etc. But it doesn’t matter. What matters is the woman attending the march who has kids that attend MSU with tears in her eyes, telling us thank you for organizing and showing support. As I held the banner with her and others leading the march, I was reminded that we must demand better. So there are no more crying moms scared for their children, so that I don’t have to wake up preparing for a shooting, so that we do not have to hear more obituaries of children with so much life left to live. We must demand better, because lives are more important than guns.