By Sierra Fang-Horvath, Print Editor-in-Chief
// “It seems as if it were only yesterday that we had the largest mass shooting in the modern United States,” junior Vanessa Urbina said. For a nation whose recent history has been steeped in gun violence and mass shootings, the U.S.’s worst nightmare became a reality last Sunday night.
Less than 16 months after the massacre at Pulse, a nightclub in Orlando, killed 49 people and left 58 others injured, a rampage in Las Vegas left 58 dead and almost 500 injured, thus becoming the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. Sixty four-year-old Stephen Paddock, perched on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, opened fire on unsuspecting concertgoers at an outdoor festival below.
A week later, the Acalanes community, along with the rest of the nation, is still struggling with the confusion and hopelessness that comes with healing.
For some, the tragedy hit particularly close to home; sophomore Dylan Hagglund and senior Megan Self both have family and friends that were at the concert and fortunately are safe. And for Anica Zulch, her worst nightmare just barely evaded manifestation.
“My mother was staying at that very hotel the week before for a convention and it’s scary to think if she was there just a week later…,” Zulch said, trailing off.
Within hours, possibly even minutes, of the shooting, many Acalanes students heard about the event through various sources, ranging from traditional forms of media to more modern methods of sharing information. While senior Belize Combs heard the news through a National Public Radio (NPR) broadcast, others like Zulch, were informed by parents or siblings about the event. The majority of interviewed students, however, relied on social media apps such as Snapchat and Instagram, as many media outlets were able to release breaking reports on their social platforms within minutes of the shooting.
To Urbina, the continual stream of depressing news alerts enabled by the 24/7 news cycle has taken a negative toll on her.
“It is honestly so disheartening to glance over at my phone expecting to see a social media notification but to instead find out the largest mass shooting the the modern history of the United States has just been committed,” Urbina said.
A constant theme among the interviewed students was that many of them have become numb to such acts of horrific violence. Sophomore Maia Pecher expressed dismay that her initial reaction was not shock but instead disinterest.
“I’m going to be honest, when I first heard of it I didn’t think too much of it. I feel like these things happen so often that it’s starting to become normalized and it didn’t affect me too much. Of course, it’s obviously a tragedy. But I’m not really shaken up by it,” Pecher said. “I was talking to a friend and he said this was more than the normal shooting amount, and just the fact that there is now a ‘normal shooting amount’ is just crazy.”
Sophomore Camryn Langley expressed a similar sentiment as Pecher. Both feel that there has come to be an alarming acceptance of violence, both domestically and internationally.
“There’s a violence in the world that seems like a standard, so it didn’t surprise me,” Langley said.
Many students now face a growing fear of large public settings, especially concerts, which are highly popular among Acalanes students and high schoolers across the nation.
“It also makes me feel really scared, thinking back on all the times I’ve been to concerts and imagining that I could’ve been in the same situation as all those people,” sophomore Mila Mathias said.
The setting of the shooting seemed especially alarming to some students because concerts are often considered safe spaces where groups of like-minded individuals gather to revel in the art of a favorite band or performer.
“You go to a concert with the intent to have a really good time and have a fun night. You’re totally not expecting it,” sophomore Aly Sheehan said.
In the wake of such a tragedy, many have been galvanized to call for stricter gun regulation. Some, like Urbina, are adamant in their advocacy for legislation. Urbina has even contacted her representatives in the Senate and House of Representatives to make her opinion known.
“Australia is the perfect example of gun policy that has actually proven effective. After a mass shooting took 35 lives, the Australian government enacted strict gun laws to prevent something of such magnitude to ever happen again,” Urbina said. “You would think the U.S. would follow in its steps to avoid anything like this ever happening again, but there is still debate over gun policy. I am quite a strong advocate for stricter gun policy— weapons of such clear destruction should not be so easily accessible to people in the U.S.”
Others, however, disagreed with Urbina on the urgency of gun control.
“In times like this, the country must come together rather than use tragedies like this as a tool to argue for their opinions such as tighter gun control laws. People need to realize that a couple gun control laws being passed will have no effect in stopping any evil actions by someone who already has guns or access to them. It’s an unfortunate reality, but an existent one in this world,” sophomore Ian White said.
Langley also believes that advocacy for gun regulations are not appropriate at the current moment, when the wounds from the tragedy are still so fresh.
“I don’t think it is a time to dispute gun safety, but a time to offer condolences to those who have lost people in their families. Instead of sending out a message of violence toward another party, we should send a message of love,” Langley said.
With just over a week gone since Sunday’s massacre, many Acalanes students are hopeful for the future, despite such a historically tragic event. When asked whether she was scared after the shooting, sophomore Beth Daughters responded with unwavering courage.
“I think that if we’re scared off, we let the people who do these things win and that’s not a good way to go about life,” Daughter said.
Others, however, feel that the path of American gun violence has not yet reached its pits.
“I feel like this situation has been building up for a while now. And it is still building up—this isn’t the climax of the story. It’s like the rising action,” sophomore Blake Levinson said. “The worst is definitely yet to come.”