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WKU Exposure

Two shootings bring gun violence home for youth



Millard North High School


Barren County High School


Millennials wake up each day with varying challenges associated with the new age, especially gun violence. From small communities to larger areas, gun violence has become a burning political issue centered on options for obliterating and defining the source of senseless acts in modern society.

Recent acts of gun violence have filled the news from a small Kentucky community to a suburb in South Florida. These two areas have sparked tremendous growth of millennial activism and support for a new age in the fight for safer schools and communities.

The morning of January 23, 2018, was unremarkable in Benton, Kentucky, a town of roughly 4,500 people.

The normal, small-town morning was disrupted when gunshots ripped through 18 students, killing two of them.

Reactions of the public were immediate. Students, particularly from small towns like Benton, felt these situations were occurring everywhere, not solely in metropolitan and suburban communities that had gained notoriety for school shootings.

High school junior Caroline Kinsman of Glasgow, Kentucky, a town roughly 180 miles from Benton, said she heard of the shooting in Marshall County while at school that morning.

“Our history teacher told us exactly what had happened to the best of his knowledge,” Kinsman said. “I remember everyone seemed really on edge that day.”

Being in the same state in a similar high school to Marshall County, the proximity of the shooting developed terrifying feelings for her.

“I had been aware of all the other school shootings happening in our country, but it never really hit me how real it was,” Kinsman said. “This was so close to us. There was a lot of fear.”

Similar situations have been successful in gaining inner-city support with little rural support. Marshall County changed that.

Days following the shooting, Kinsman said school officials were adamant about hearing from students.

“We were allowed to vocalize our fears to the administration and they went over the plan with us if something like that ever happened,” Kinsman said.

Marshall County not only impacted Glasgow, but smaller communities like Gamaliel, Kentucky.

Sixteen-year-old Cassidy Huber said Marshall County opened her eyes to a simple solution rather than thoughts she pondered before following larger shootings.

“I think there should be more community services,” Huber said.

Gabe Parker, the alleged shooter, has been reported to have experienced bullying. Huber said Marshall County changed her view on mental health and that more community services should be made available to reduce mental complications resulting in senseless acts.

Huber said the community was led to support efforts for safer schools after Marshall County as well, but at this time no large-scale groups exist.

Several groups throughout the country have formed amidst school shootings, but a major shooting in South Florida placed awareness on a new platform.

Parkland, Florida, home to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, was the platform for additional gun violence talks after Nikolas Cruz opened fire at the school this past February.

Students began becoming activists for stricter gun laws.

The 17 dead and 14 wounded at Parkland started a revolution. Their untimely deaths on Feb. 14 lead their classmates and many in the nation to reevaluate their views on gun violence.

“The shooting made me want more gun control in the U.S. because a 19-year-old shouldn’t be able to get firearms of that power,” said John Hundley of St. Louis. “There needs to be a change.”

And a change did occur. The shooting led to forms of protest against current gun laws such as rallies, walkouts and the hashtag #neveragain, which was coined by MSD students.

In fact, out of five students questioned about the walkout, every single one knew about it and every single one wanted to or did participate. This fact speaks to the diffusion of the gun control movement across the country.

“The shooting really affected my views on gun control because it was mind boggling,” said India Rice of Atlanta. “Why should an underage kid have the ability to obtain a firearm and use it to the worst extent? I was really upset.”

The large number of school shootings have caused many to feel numb and unsurprised when new ones occur.

“My first reaction was just thinking, ‘oh, it’s another one,’ because there had been so many school shootings recently,” said Bowling Green High School senior Sierra Earnhart.

MSD students are trying to combat the sense of numbness one feels after hearing about the shootings in multiple ways. For example, they try to humanize the students that were killed and collaborate with other high schoolers to raise awareness about gun violence.

“I can’t imagine the sorrow each of those 17 families are going through, but it just shows how lucky I am,” said Stoneman Douglas senior Jenna Korsten in a letter to her friend Brooke Wilczewski to read at the walkout at Millard North High School in Omaha, Nebraska. “We all have to work together, one by one to make a change.”

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Two shootings bring gun violence home for youth