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Where are America’s priorities: Is your right to own a weapon of mass slaughter more important than my right to a future?

Is this a moment? Or is this a movement? 1865. The 13th amendment, abolishing slavery in our country forever was passed. This was a movement.

1870. The 15th amendment, giving all male citizens the right to vote regardless of race, in our country, was passed. This was a movement.

1920. The 19th amendment, giving all women the right to vote in our country, was passed. This was a movement.

2018. The year we end gun violence in our country. Could this be our movement? The school year of 2016/2017 was the first time I ever had to physically practice a school shooting drill. We were told to dive into the closest room, exit the building if necessary, run off the property and into the wooded area next to the school if in danger. I remember the alarms blaring, lights flashing, voices over the intercom assuring us that this was indeed an intended drill.

Nevertheless I was scared. This could happen to anybody. I could be shot the next day at school.

Suddenly, seeking an education became a danger. The reality that a school shooting was a plausible and very real possibility did not sink in until February 14, 2018. The day of the Parkland massacre. My god-family lives in Coral Springs, the very neighborhood of the shooting. If my two god-sisters were just a few years older, this would have been the public school they would have attended.

One of the Parkland victims was hiding in a closet during the shooting. She was texting her mom, telling her that if she didn’t make it out, if she didn’t survive, she just wanted her mother to know how much she loved her. These ended up being her final words.

I imagine getting these texts from my 9-year-old sister, or my 12-year-old brother.  Knowing they can hear shooting and screaming right outside their door, and knowing the end is near, and me, unable to do anything, probably not receiving these messages until their lives were ended.

Another victim’s parents heard about the school shooting early on, and immediately tried to call their little girl. She picked up, but she couldn’t say a thing. She happened to be lying there on the ground, bleeding out, unable to say goodbye to her mom and dad on the other line, who were shouting her name, and begging for her to respond. This could easily have been my god- sisters, this could easily have been my siblings, the lights of my life, this could easily have been me. Those alarm lights I see during a drill could be the last thing to ever penetrate my vision.

The 2nd Amendment declares that “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” This is the debate against gun violence: our founding fathers wrote down in ink that American citizens have the right to bear arms. Here is my counter argument: “Article Five of the Constitution states that: “The Congress, whenever two-thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution . . .” We have evolved exponentially since the 2nd amendment was written.

Without this Article, declaring amendments can be added, changed, or eradicated, I would still be considered property, and my peers who happen to be a minority would not be able to vote. As society grows, laws must grow, must expand, and must adjust. The second amendment was written in 1791, before a trained and set up military, before handguns and assault rifles, before the invention of tanks or nuclear bombs.

I agree we deserve the rights to protect ourselves, but does that mean supplying everyone with nuclear bombs? With tanks? Where do we draw the line? And if you really want to follow the 2nd Amendment to the T then I will gladly help you hand in your weapons in exchange for the muskets our Founding Fathers had.

I am not opposed to registered, trained, tested, and trusted gun owners. I am opposed to those buying guns of mass murder, those possibly unstable, those who have not gone through background checks, and those who have no training. I am opposed to the slack laws that have allowed US to sport one of the highest gun violence rates in the world.

Why is the right to bear arms the second amendment? And why are abolishing slavery, allowing all men of color to vote, and allowing women their rights the 13th, 15th, and 19th amendments?

Where are America’s priorities? Is your right to own an unregistered weapon of mass slaughter more important than my right to a future? Is the 2nd Amendment really 17 amendments more important than my right to an education? The second amendment, the flimsy gun regulation laws, are destroying my amendments, and my peers amendments, to a safe education.

I have the opportunity to stand here and use my voice because of the 19th amendment. I get an education because of the 19th amendment. I have the right to vote because of the 19th amendment. And now I am using my 19th Amendment rights to make sure they never again come as an afterthought to the 2nd Amendment.

I march, I rally, I fight because women I will never know marched, rallied, and fought so I could have the chance to seek an education. My generation deserves the right to safe schooling. My ancestors did not create a movement over 170 years ago for students to feel unsafe in schools. My amendment right to freedom may have come after your right to own unregistered, unlicensed assault weapons, but I’ll be damned if any education is going to come second to school shootings. So I’ll ask you again. Is this a moment? Or is this a movement?

Hailey O’Hara is a sophomore at Olympia High School. She gave this speech at the March 24 “March for our Lives.”


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