Students demand change in the face of gun violence
Most college freshmen have to worry about how they’re going to pay for books, their room decorations and what type of meal plan they’ve bought. Reynaldo Montemayor III worries about PTSD.
Now a freshman at the College of the Mainland, Montemayor was a senior at Santa Fe High School when a former student fatally shot eight students, two teachers and wounded 13 others. The May shooting was the second-deadliest in 2018.
“I lost four friends and had four other friends injured,” Montemayor said. “I wasn’t the same after that.”
There have been 307 mass shootings in the United States in 2018 alone, according to Business Insider. Political science professor Richard Murray, an expert in state and local politics, said the increase in shootings has caused a shift in students’ opinions on gun control.
In a poll Murray conducted for his requisite political science class in August, 68.4 percent of the students thought there should be stricter gun regulations.
This generation continues to speak out, and political candidates have mirrored them. Murray observed that the gun issue played heavily into the higher voting turnout.
Public relations senior Keffus Falls III, an activist in UH’s on-campus Students for Beto organization, has noted the need for this generation to step up.
“The Santa Fe shooting is just another reminder that we need to wake up and realize that there is a problem in America with mass shootings,” Falls said.
California has some of the toughest state policies on gun control, Murray said, and gun deaths in the state have almost halved since they were implemented. According to USA Today, California is No. 43 in a ranking of the states according to gun violence, with No. 1 Alaska having the most gun violence.
Texas comes in at No. 28 with 12.1 firearm deaths per 100,000 people.
Students like Falls are looking for tighter gun control policies across the board and other methods to feel more secure on a campus setting. Greater mental health funding is one avenue students have expressed interest in for increased safety.
“Mental health is seen as taboo, especially in communities like Houston,” Falls said. “The lack of treatment provided for mental health doesn’t align with access to guns.”
He also said that students who need help often don’t get it due to the stigma placed on mental health awareness.
“A lot of us don’t want to go to the doctor because we don’t want to be labeled as crazy, because we’re afraid of judgment,” Falls said.
A former UH history senior, Matt Wiltshire, former president elect for Houston Young Republicans also commented on the issue.
“Gun violence is an extremely complicated issue that cannot be solved legislatively, it needs to be solved culturally,” Wiltshire said. “The issue isn’t guns themselves. It’s people who come from broken homes that commit horrific acts.”
As a student who sought out help in order to deal with the aftermath of being in a school shooting, Montemayor agrees. He thinks more money should be funneled into on-campus resources such as CAPS. He also realizes the difficulty of such a task.
While the difficulties are real, some students believe it’s worth the cost to feel secure on their campus again.
“We need to take steps to prevent losing another life,” Falls said.
Bottom line, whether it’s gun control, mental health programs or an alternative action, some students are speaking out for a change. Their voice was evident in this last election, and as Murray concluded, it looks like it will continue to be heard in ensuing ones.
“Everybody grieves for a month, then forgets about it except for the town,” Montemayor said. “If it happened to their loved ones, then they would want to take action.”