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The student news site of Lake Forest Academy

The Spectator

The student news site of Lake Forest Academy

The Spectator

Gun laws and college decisions: Has gun violence been normalized?

Photo by Creative Commons
Signs protesting against gun violence.

We live in a world of politics. Politics are everywhere we look; they’re in our family discussions, our classes, and our relationships. It seems no matter where we turn, politics factor into every aspect of our lives. One of the most pressing issues in high school students’ lives is where we will continue our education as we ponder what college will best suit us and our needs. As multiple factors go into making this life-changing decision such as destination, majors, and finances, one would assume that politics would factor in as well. We went into this article with hopes of writing about how various state gun laws could affect students’ college decisions. However, after talking to many people within our community, including college counselors, we were surprised to find out that gun violence and differing weapon laws are not usual topics of discussion when it comes to the college process. While this may be a result of students being unaware and feeling unaffected by the gun violence problem, with such a grand scale decision such as college, one would think that this issue would at least be considered. However, the truth is that it’s not an unawareness issue. It’s the fact that gun violence occurs so often within our society that we have gone numb, not taking the time to even consider the gun violence crisis occurring in America that could affect our college lives.  

According to Everytown Research & Policy, “Every day, 120 Americans are killed with guns and more than 200 are shot and wounded (in the U.S.)” Unfortunately, many believe our government has contributed to gun violence becoming a crisis in the U.S. due to their lack of measures on national firearm registry and monitoring gun ownership. In fact, as of April 2023, eight out of the 50 states have concealed carry permit laws that include a judgment call—when a gun is only administered after the applicant is observed and the administrator, themself, believes the applicant is well-suited to carry a weapon. However, other states give out a concealed carry permit to anyone who applies and meets the requirements (have no judgment call) or the states do not require a permit and consider conceal carry constitutional in their state. The eight states issuing permits through judgment enable a decrease in the amount of firearms concealed carried throughout the state which then lowers the amount of violent crime. These laws are especially important in determining what states to continue one’s education in, but yet again, it doesn’t cross the majority of our minds. 

We came to this realization of gun laws not affecting the college process while interviewing Ben Wetherbee, LFA’s Associate Dean of College Counseling. He stated how the tragedies of shootings on campuses are not only not a consideration when it comes to college decisions, but they are also largely ignored. For students in America, the issue of shootings on campuses has turned into something that is almost bound to happen, Wetherbee stated, “I think about what happened at Michigan State in February. As tragic as that event is, I wouldn’t say that I’ve had anyone not apply to Michigan State because of that piece, which I think speaks to the normalization of it. I don’t think a lot of the students that applied this year were even aware that that had occurred.” Unlike abortion laws, where the decision does come down to the specific state, the danger of school shootings can happen anywhere, which could also explain why it is not a factor in college decisions. It’s not just colleges, as we’ve seen high schools, parades, local businesses, and almost everywhere we look affected by shootings. 

Gabi Stewart, a senior at LFA, said, “I do think about it but not to the extent of picking schools because dangerous mass shootings can happen anywhere, like it just happened a little while ago in Highland Park. So I think it’s hard for me to mitigate that so I think I’m just choosing my school and hoping I stay safe along the way.” 

As shootings happen time and time again with the tragedy of it seeming to not even make people flinch, along with Americans’ lives coming down to “hoping,” one would think that active measures would be taken to stop these events from happening regularly. But somehow, there is nothing. Many lives have been lost and altered due to the neglectfulness of this topic, but there is always the hope that in the future it will no longer be something that is just expected and ignored. As students go about their college decisions, it is a great loss to our country that something so hefty and violent is not even considered and is seen less as a “what if” but more as a “when.”

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Emma Swanson, Managing Editor of Social Justice
Liv Kelly, Managing Editor of Op-Ed

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