“Thoughts and prayers aren’t enough”: RV students reflect on America’s relationship with guns

In the wake of the shooting at Robb Elementary in Texas, RV students and staff consider the gun debate


Photo courtesy of npr.org (via Getty Images)

Gun control advocates hold signs during a protest in front of the the National Rifle Association convention in Houston last week

As the number of school shootings rises in the United States, students and teachers fear for their safety and search for solutions.

The school shooting which took place last Tuesday, May 24 at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas in which 19 children and two adults were murdered, marks the twenty-seventh school shooting and 212th mass shooting in 2022.  Following the shooting, there has been a public call for gun-control legislation.

This is certainly not the first such movement.  In the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in 2018, America saw the formation of Never Again MSD.  Schools nationwide held walkouts in support of gun-control legislation and citizens took part in the March for Our Lives, one of the biggest protests in American history.  

After this most recent shooting, celebrities and politicians alike have called for gun control.  

Steve Kerr, coach of the Golden State Warriors, declined to discuss basketball during a recent pregame conference, instead electing to speak out about gun control.  

Every time I hear a lock down called, my heart drops. Every time I hear about a school shooting, I’m scared I’m next.

— RV student

“I’m tired,” he said in a press conference last week that went viral.  “I am so tired of getting up here and offering condolences to the devastated families that are out there. I am so tired of the, excuse, I am sorry, I am tired of the moments of silence. Enough.”  

Likewise, Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke made a statement during current governor Greg Abbott’s press conference, saying “The time to stop the next shooting is right now and you are doing nothing.”

Local leaders around the country have also taken time to mourn the tragedy.  On Wednesday May 25, Principal Martin led the Rancocas Valley Regional High School in a moment of silence for the twenty one lives lost the day prior.  

Despite its major publicity, students are left to wonder whether the movement spurred by this tragedy will, like the Never Again movement, fade into history in a few months with few significant legislative changes taking place.  While many states passed gun-control legislations after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, such laws are still limited in much of the country.  

In an anonymous survey conducted by the Holly Spirit last week, students were asked about a number of issues pertaining to guns in America. In general, feelings about guns were nuanced; a slim majority (42%) agreed that “America’s gun laws are too lax; the country should do more to limit access to firearms, including banning certain types of guns.” Forty percent agreed that “gun ownership is an American right, but [access] should be limited in the interest of public safety.” A number of students wrote in their own opinions, ranging from “gun ownership is a right enshrined in the Constitution” to “no one should be allowed to have guns in this country.”

General feelings about guns in America from an anonymous survey conducted by the Holly Spirit (Alexis Chester)

Few students argue that gun violence, especially in schools, is not a problem in America. Eighty-nine percent of students surveyed strongly agree that “school shootings are a major problem in America that must be resolved,” and 62% percent agreed with the statement that “stricter gun laws are the way to curb gun violence in this country.” Moreover, 59% strongly agreed that “Gun violence in this country is getting worse.”

“I have had a fear of guns since I knew what guns were,” said one student. “Every time I hear a lock down called, my heart drops. Every time I hear about a school shooting, I’m scared I’m next. I constantly live in fear every time I walk into school, and I’m sick of being scared.”

However, students do not all agree on how to address the issue.  

Students reflect on gun violence in schools in an anonymous survey conducted by the Holly Spirit (Alexis Chester)

“My family owns guns and followed every law and signed every form to receive them properly and legally,” said another student.  “Thankfully we have never needed them for self defense and hope we never see a day that we do but guns are not the issue. There is always a person behind a gun who is pulling the trigger. It is in our Amendments that we as American citizens have the right to bear arms, but I do believe there should be better background checks on the individuals who want to purchase firearms.”

Many states, including Texas, have legislation on the books allowing schools to arm teachers to counter potential violence in schools. In the survey, only 11% of students agreed that teachers should be armed, while 62% claimed that law enforcement should be the only individuals permitted to carry guns in school. Twenty-two percent of students surveyed believed that no guns should be allowed on school grounds under any circumstances.  

Teachers at RV have also engaged in the national debate over gun legislation.

“I think this country is in desperate need of gun control legislation,” said Mrs. Holzschuh, RV’s Family and Consumer Science teacher. “I don’t see why we have to have AR-15s.  These are weapons of mass destruction.  They’re killing machines.  You have to be highly trained in the military to use them.  Why are we selling them over the counter?”

“I find the lack of legislative action absolutely sickening,” said another who wished to remain anonymous.

Since the shooting at Robb Elementary, there has already been another shooting at a medical facility in Tulsa as of publication of this piece. It’s important to note that the shooting in Texas comes on the heels of a racially-motivated shooting in Buffalo last week.   

The future of gun control will likely continue to dominate political discourse in the coming weeks. With the impending midterm elections this fall, it is likely that candidates will speak candidly about their views on guns in America.

“Thoughts and prayers aren’t enough,” said one student in the survey. “While taking a moment of silence is nice and polite but it won’t solve the issue at hand. The issue at hand is that it is happening.”