White Station joins national walkout against gun violence

On Wednesday, April 5 at 12 p.m., students stood in front of the East Annex to stand against gun violence. Many students wore orange that day to protest against gun violence. (MEGAN SHIPP//THE SCROLL)

With an increase in the number of school shootings this year, gun ownership is becoming a contentious issue among many Americans. Guns are listed as the leading cause of death for children aged one to eighteen making it important for many that they speak out against gun violence and gun ownership.

Although there is no universal definition of a mass shooting, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a mass shooting is when “four or more people are shot or killed in a single incident, not including the shooter.” Since the Covenant School shooting in Nashville, TN on March 27, 2023, there have been at least 33 incidents of gunfire documented on school grounds, resulting in eight deaths and 25 injuries across the country; mass shootings are not the only instance where death is a result of a gun. Tennessee’s current gun laws allow adults to carry guns openly or concealed without a permit, leading some to believe that a school shooting in Tennessee was inevitable.

When I was in high school, I do think one of the main reasons that caused [mass shootings] to start happening is the ease at which people can obtain guns,” Curt Rakestraw, AP Comparative Government, AP U.S. Government and Honors Economics teacher said. “Especially in the last couple of decades, we have seen a couple of [states] voluntarily ease their gun restrictions. So it made it easier to get guns. And in the last couple of years especially, even the Supreme Court at the national level is kind of forcing states to ease gun access, more than we had in the past. Gun control used to be a really normal thing up until the time I was younger, and now it is kind of expected that someone can go to a store and buy a gun that …  [has] no waiting period. That is the big cause of the problem to me.”

With Nashville being three hours away from Memphis as well as being another major city, some were concerned with the safety of Memphis schools. Although there is no way to truly mentally or physically prepare for a mass shooting, tighter restrictions on firearms and social services present might prevent future shootings.

“A lot of shooters that cause these mass shootings suffer from mental illness,” Presley Spiller (12) said. “I think it’s very blatant that all of the shooters that have committed these mass shootings have had [a] severe mental illness. And that really sheds a light on how the government ignores mental health, especially in children.”

With fewer background and licensing checks to obtain a firearm than ever, one now only needs to take a quiz that takes around 180 seconds to get a firearm. Every state is obligated to provide every service to all its citizens. Raising taxes to provide services like healthcare, education and city maintenance becomes much harder when there is little to no funding.

“To add on, stuff like mental health treatment and things like that could help address the problem,” Rakestraw said. “That is just more burden for the state and everybody in their state governments refuse to pay taxes so states don’t really have the flexibility to raise taxes. If Tennessee raised taxes to provide these services, people [could] move to DeSoto County and be like ten minutes away and not change their life at all.”

Some deem White Station’s current security measures as inefficient in preventing strangers and unwanted people from entering the building.

“I’d say the structure of the school is very poor,” Spiller said. “I think that there are one too many entrances to the school. For me, I can go just anywhere and get in an entrance just by pushing a button. So, I don’t know the process of, ‘Do they see my face and register me as a student?’ ‘Do they look at me because they see that I have a backpack on?’ ‘Do they just let me in because of like, whatever?’”

Having a second cousin attend the Nashville Covenant school, Spiller organized a school walkout with Students Demand Action on April 5 in response. Getting help from Rakestraw, administration and support from students, Spiller was able to get permission from principal Carrye Holland to host the walkout. During the walkout, students Thomas Riley (12), London Haines (10), Luke Hatler (11) and Tyus Davis (12) talked about their personal stories and views regarding school shootings.

“I was very satisfied with how [the walkout] turned out because I was expecting a lot of backlash from principal Holland,” Spiller said. “I was expecting backlash from a lot of teachers and a lot of students. Although it shouldn’t be political that students are safe, it is — because of gun laws and gun rights. As I expected, there were … protestors against the entire thing and it did get somewhat violent but other than that it was very minor and I think it could’ve gotten way worse.”