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Columbine was Just the Beginning: The Horror of Gun Violence in Schools

What lessons should we have taken from the past, in order to protect students in the present and future?

Do you ever wonder what would happen if two people did not meet each other? Would either Eric Harris or Dylan Klebold have murdered their classmates at Columbine High School? Would they have caused this tragedy independent of each other? Would their names be synonymous with terror in our schools?

Columbine High School made international news on April 20, 1999. Thirteen children died in a school shooting at the hands of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, both of whom committed suicide on the scene. The magnitude of this school shooting had not been seen previously in the United States. However, now Americans are no strangers to school shootings. According to the author of Columbine, David Cullen, “In the ten years after Columbine, more than eighty school shootings took place in the United States.” Is America taking the threat to our schools seriously? Why does it keep happening over and over again? Although every school shooting is different, what they have in common that is innocent children are being murdered and they continue to occur. Over twenty years after Columbine, the debate on whether the United States government is taking enough precautions such as gun control legislation and quicker police response time to keep American students safe is a prominent controversy in today’s society. 

We have all heard of Sandy Hook, Uvalde, and Columbine, but those are just the schools making headlines. So many students have gone to school and never returned home after tragic events. School is one place children should feel safe, but in America, it is anything but a safe haven for children. Even as a high school student, I ask, “Will I come home today?” because gun laws have not changed since Columbine, resulting in more frequent school shootings. During an NPR  interview, law professor Adam Winkler states, “Gun advocates believe that the answer to gun violence is more guns.” Lawmakers have had over twenty years since Columbine to make changes and save the lives of students and staff at schools, but politicians can not put their conflicts aside and make reasonable gun control legislation. Many politicians do not go into work thinking they could die on the job, but over time, teachers have to prepare themselves for that idea, along with students. Active shooter drills are a common practice in the classroom today. 

Police officers have received backlash after their response time to school shootings. At Columbine High School, for example, officers took about five hours to clear the scene as safe while many students and a teacher bled out. Dave Sanders, a teacher at Columbine, bled out from wounds, but he could have been saved if the police had been better prepared for the situation. After Columbine, active shooter protocols changed for the better, but they are still not enough in many cases. Many people are criticizing the officers on scene at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, for that same delay in response as seen in Columbine, twenty years ago. An article from Yahoo News states, “The response counters active-shooter training that emphasizes confronting the gunman, a standard established more than two decades ago after the mass shooting at Columbine High School showed that waiting cost lives.” Days after the shooting, police body camera footage was released from the day of the shooting at Robb Elementary School and police immediately faced more backlash. Another news article says, “Despite a robust response of at least 376 law enforcement officers, the new report notes a chaotic and uncoordinated scene, stressing how police officials prioritized their own safety over the lives of students and teachers and waited more than an hour to confront 18-year-old gunman Salvador Ramos.” Therein lies the problem with America’s police response to active shooters in schools. 

Many believe if America had stricter gun control laws, school shootings would not pose as big of a threat. However, after continuous attacks on American schools, many politicians seem to be taking the threat lightly. After twenty-six children and staff members died in Sandy Hook Elementary School, nothing was done to prevent a similar event. From an interview posted on NPR, “In the wake of Newtown, we see no new federal gun laws passed.” In an article from Sandy Hook Promise, it is said that, “The U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security research shows that if we ‘know the signs’ of gun violence, we can prevent it and reverse the trend.” Nonetheless, in 2022, twenty-seven school shootings took place and nothing has been done to prevent casualties in the future. Knowing the signs is clearly not enough. 

Overall, America has a serious problem that is not effectively being dealt with by our leaders in public offices. David Cullen’s novel, Columbine, shows us a detailed account of the events leading up to the infamous school shooting and the aftermath of inadequate police response and a lack of gun control laws. Columbine should have been a warning sign to everyone that school shootings are a serious issue that needs to be addressed. Twenty years was plenty of time for gun laws to change and to make students and staff in schools feel safer. 


Works Cited: 

Cullen, Dave. Columbine. Riverrun, 2019. 

Grant, Matt, et al. “What’s Happened with Gun Laws after Other Mass Shootings?” KRQE NEWS 13 – Breaking News, Albuquerque News, New Mexico News, Weather, and Videos, KRQE NEWS 13 – Breaking News, Albuquerque News, New Mexico News, Weather, and Videos, 25 May 2022,

All Things Considered. “Why There Have Been Few New Federal Laws After Each School Shooting.” NPR, NPR, 16 February 2018, Accessed 23 7 2022.

Papa, Ashley, et al. “Uvalde mom who rescued sons from school shooting reacts to police response: ‘Turn in your badge.’” Fox News, 18 July 2022, Accessed 23 July 2022.

Oxygen True Crime. “Experts Say Uvalde School Shooting Response Was Not Up To Par And Cost Lives.” Yahoo News, 2022, Accessed 23 July 2022.

Sandy Hook Promise. “16 Facts About Gun Violence And School Shootings — Sandy Hook Promise.” Sandy Hook Promise, Accessed 25 July 2022.

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