Guns Don’t Belong in our Mascot

Our country is ravaged by gun violence—in 2021, guns killed more than 49,000 Americans. As we all know, gun violence infects schools too; since the Columbine school shooting in 1999, there have been over 360 more, affecting more than 215,000 students across the country. Just recently, on March 27, three elementary schoolers and three staff members were killed in a school in Nashville, Tennessee. This adds to the long list of school shootings in our generation’s lifetime—Sandy Hook, Parkland, Uvalde, among hundreds of others.

While we as students at South have never experienced gun violence in our school, we live in a world where it is ever present. In class, we have draining discussions about how someone could be driven to such horrible extremes. Over the years, we have heard of threats against our school and others, leading many of us to stay home, rather than face the risk of violence in our classes. And we have had so many lockdown drills, ever since kindergarten; from the beginning of our lives, it is ingrained into us that we are at risk of harm, of death, when we are at school.

Our mascot should not remind us of this trauma. The Colonel should not have guns. Given our own experiences, and given the dozens of students who have died in school shootings merely since my peers and I began high school, it seems wildly inappropriate to display firearms on a figure who is intended to encourage school pride and cheer students on. By keeping the guns, we demonstrate our community’s disregard for the harm and trauma that guns have caused to students.

This is a disregard for our nation’s pain, as well. There are more than 393,000,000 guns in our country—more than the number of people—and our country has a firearm homicide rate 25 times greater than those of other developed countries. Guns affect everyone: in addition to being the most common means of suicide, they are the leading cause of death for children aged 0-19 and the leading cause of homicides stemming from domestic abuse—every month, 57 women are killed by an intimate partner using a gun. This epidemic is lethal; our country is suffering. The way firearms are represented in American society demonstrates whether we recognize their deadliness and the destruction they cause. Given our society, it should be reprehensible to flaunt firearms in public drawings, buildings, or school mascots.

There is a precedent for American schools updating antiquated and inappropriate mascots to reflect current society. We should modernize our outdated Colonel and remove his guns, in response to the devastation firearms wreak. Though it was judged acceptable to have a mascot with firearms in the early twentieth century (when South first opened), we can see differently now. We know the pain that guns cause our country, killing children, parents, grandparents, and partners. We know how much harm guns are responsible for in schools, how many students die every year. Even for students not directly affected by school shootings, their threat still looms over us. It is time to acknowledge that we need to make a change, in order to make our mascot appropriate for current life. It is time to remove the guns.

Modernizing the Colonel also raises larger questions surrounding its existence, though this is a larger discussion for our community to have. I don’t feel connected to our mascot, and I know of other students who feel the same way. Maybe it is time to think about the significance of the Colonel to our school and what value he holds.

But at the very least, let’s get rid of the guns.

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