Photo Credit: Art By Autumn Gollop
New Law Poses Potential Danger, Stirs Controversy Among Pro, Anti-Gun Citizens
Gun violence among teenagers and young adults is at an all-time high, despite the fact that it is only the first month of the new year.
Recently, there have been at least 16 if not more shootings in the Madison-Huntsville area, causing teenagers who would normally go out and party with friends to reconsider whether they feel safe enough to go out and enjoy themselves.
One January 9th, 2023 at a 21st birthday party a shooting took place at Legacy Events which ended with two Alabama A&M University Students, Kaitlyn Jenkins, 20 and Quantasia Grant, 20 both dying on scene.
“I don’t really want to go to parties here because people don’t know how to act. I’d rather wait until I move into college,” student who wishes to remain anonymous said. “It made me feel like you really don’t know what is about to happen when you’re in a large crowd and how dumb people will act together.”
Parties were intended to be a time for junior Miya Green to hang out with her friends and enjoy her teenage years without worry, but with the rise of gun violence, her perspective has shifted.
“Since parties have been the center of gun violence lately, it has influenced me to stay home more,” Green said. “Usually parties and gatherings are supposed to be fun and a once in a lifetime moment but in reality I’m really fearing that something bad will happen if I go to what’s supposed to be a convivial event.”
According to kff.org’s “The Impact of Gun Violence on Children and Adolescents,” firearms have become the leading causes of death among people 19-years-old and under. Gun violence increased rapidly during the first six months of 2022 and only two months into 2023 and there have been at least 3 reported gun incidents among teens and at parties.
As a former mayor of Madison City, Jan Wells understands how the government can or can not regulate gun violence. She knows all too well the deep feeling Americans have about the Second Amendment.
“I think we have had a mass shooting every day for the last week somewhere. I think there are too many guns out there, Somewhere and somehow I think we need to try to figure out why the answer for so many people needs to be a gun,” Wells said.
Besides guns being present at parties, there has also been a rise in the number of teens carrying firearms in general. In recent shootings as well as school shootings, a teenager has generally been at the heart of it all.
“I am concerned about the increase in teen gun violence. This is due to my belief that teenagers shouldn’t be exposed to violence at such a young age,” Green said. “Their attention should be directed more towards completing their education and preparation for the future. Not worrying about guns and looking over their shoulders.”
Although gun violence has been in the news cycle consistently for years, Alabama has kept it at the forefront when the state legislature passed and Gov. Kay Ivey signed HB-272. This bill allows anyone 21-years-old or older and legally permitted to carry a firearm will no longer be required to obtain a permit in order to carry a concealed pistol. This has some students’ concerned.
“In my opinion, the law to carry without a license is dumb. I know you have to be a certain age to carry without it, but that’s not going to stop younger kids from carrying, I feel like this would allow more gun violence to happen,” junior Alexis Turner said. “Even though people say, “I carry my gun for protection. Maybe they want to feel that way if the law actually protects them more.”
According to the National Center of Education Statistics, 19% of male students and 3% of female students in grades 9-12 reported that they had carried a weapon, both anywhere and on school property during a 30-day time period. Turner says she doesn’t know any teen personally who carries a gun, but believes this statistic.
“I have seen social media postings from teens about their guns,” Turner said.
Huntsville Police Officer Tim Willis believes that rather than being physical, society should focus on verbal communication in order to raise knowledge about guns. He also believes that the government should support programs that encourage communication and respect.
“One hurdle with this is that most of society has become used too and expects instant results. Verbal communications often take longer to achieve results. The government can assist by expanding programs that encourage communication and respect,” Willis said. “While also enacting laws that hold offenders responsible for their actions. Law Enforcement can do their part by being active in their communities, both personally and professionally, while also strictly enforcing current laws.”
Always a contentious topic, Americans are entrenched in their opinions about gun control. Willis feels that gun culture in America has both a negative and positive effect depending on how one was raised.
“America has a long history with guns and they have been used in many positive ways.
Putting food on the family’s table, personal enjoyment and sport are just a few positive aspects of the culture. However, all things, no matter what the original intent of the creator was, can be used negatively by anyone with other intentions,” Willis said. “Today young people have grown up with TV shows, movies and video games that glorify gun violence. Young people see problems solved instantly with violence on a daily basis without seeing the devastation and consequences of those actions; until it’s too late.”
In the United States, there are more than 393 million weapons in circulation, or around 120.5 guns per 100 people, according to violence.chop.org. One in three houses with children has a gun, and 1.7 million of them are unlocked and loaded. In addition to the scientific literature, American children run the significant risk of being exposed to gun injury and death.
“I believe a good start to reducing young people’s use of firearms to commit violent acts is to teach patience and better communications techniques, as well as strict enforcement of current laws,” Willis said. “Parents, educators, peers, community members and leaders all have to commit to setting a standard and being part of the solution.”
As an experienced police officer, Willis knows that all violence is not gun related and understands that this plays into the argument of the pro-gun audience.
“I believe all violence is wrong, whether a gun is used or not. With that in mind I feel that people, both young and old, that have violence in mind will commit violent acts with or
without a gun,” Willis said.
Willis has not encountered a young person with a gun, but he has strong feelings about such subject.
“Sadness and confusion are my most often felt feelings. I’m sad that these incidents happen and am often confused as to what was so bad that it led to the need to express themselves in such an extreme and possibly eternal way,” Willis said.
Although today’s teenage population knows too well that the possibility of a mass shooting at school is high, the current news headlines are showing more individual type shootings amongst teens and even elementary students.
“I know people who have access to guns or carry guns. It’s concerning because some teens aren’t smart when it comes to weapons,” junior Jaylah Ollie said. “As soon as a teen with a weapon gets into an altercation, that’s the first thing they go to. As teenagers we need to be focused on our futures instead of worrying about violence and unnecessary things.”
[Teens’] attention should be directed more towards completing their education and preparation for the future. Not worrying about guns and looking over their shoulders.
— Miya Green