Gracie Schweitzer is a psychology sophomore and opinion columnist for Mustang News. The views expressed in this piece don’t necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.

In the United States, the number of K-12 school shootings since 1970 is 1,924. K-12 school shootings average 37 per year; that’s three shootings per month, not including shootings that take place on college campuses or major public gatherings such as concerts and protests. Mass shootings have become an epidemic in our country with no end in sight. The question is, how shocked are you when a story of yet another school shooting pops up on your news feed?

Just two weeks ago, another shooting occurred in a Uvalde, Texas elementary school. With 20 lives lost – and counting – and many others injured, we need to take a moment to think about the state our country is in. Are you shocked? What emotions sit at the pit of your stomach when you see the headlines?

School shootings are a symptom of a greater disease within our country. Mental illness, gun safety laws, economic drive and desensitization all contribute to the number of school shootings that have taken place over the last 50 years. 

In a recent poll, about 54% of Americans want stricter gun laws in place, while only 16% want laws that give easier access to gun ownership. Many Americans feel that gun laws and regulations need to be put in place by Congress to protect not only the children of America but all citizens. 

After Sandy Hook, the nation was in complete shock; yet still, most of the major legislation proposed by congress, such as the assault weapon ban of 2013, ultimately failed in the senate. Nowadays, when a shooting pops up in the news, the sickness we feel is desensitized by the knowledge that despite 20 children dying, the battle to get any gun legislation passed in Congress seems futile. 

Researchers have found that nearly 68% of guns used in gun-related incidents at schools are taken from parents or the homes of family friends. This is because many Americans either do not lock their guns or believe that their children are clueless to where the guns are stored. Clearly this has been proven untrue time and time again. Some Americans are so used to having guns around that they are ignorant to the fact that many are uneducated on gun safety and the proper handling of a weapon. Each state has its own laws pertaining to gun safety in the home, but even with these laws, accidents can happen and, in some cases, a child can use that gun for violence. 

Gun safety, regulations and restrictions are the most identifiable contributing factors to blame when it comes to school shootings. However, there are more important contributing factors that need to be addressed as well. Mental illness is one of the largest factors pertaining to children and gun violence. Research has shown us that 1 in 4 individuals suffer from mental illness of some type. When it comes to teenagers, the rate is much higher. Young men and boys who suffer from mental illness do so in private because they are shunned by their peers when mental illness becomes apparent. 

Today, students as young as six years old are now practicing active shooter drills just as often as fire drills each year. I remember in my high school each class had designated “fighters” and “weapons” that were planned to be used if and when a shooter was on campus. It was a nightmare. These drills and hypothetical situations have become very normalized in our society. The nightmare of school shootings is becoming more of a reality than a rare occurrence. 

Lives are lost or put in danger every day due to shootings and mental illness. What do we say to the children watching the news, asking their parents about the probability of their lives being put in danger when the leaders of our society are unwilling to protect them? 
The children of this country shouldn’t think a school shooting will one day happen at their place of safety. The factors that contribute to school shootings must be addressed because this nightmare shouldn’t persist and  needs to be put to an end.