Voices: Memories of gun violence

Diana Kurniawan, a graduate student at the CU-Denver School of Public Affairs, remembers how traumatized she was when someone she knew was killed. Now is the time for stronger gun control laws, she argues.

I recall I was 17 when I came home from high school to find my mother crying in the kitchen. “Andrew Suryaatmadja was shot in the head,” my mother said.

Andrew, 16, was a friend from a local church that my family and I attended while I was growing up in San Fernando Valley in California. “His parents said he was shot because he got into a fight after a party with his high school friends,” my mother said.

The details of the tragedy were fuzzy because my parents wanted to keep me away from trauma. I ran upstairs to my bedroom and cried to pieces. I never knew that Andrew would have died at the age of 16, but he did.

Several months later, I was invited to a football game at Cleveland High School in Northridge, Calif. Some of my friends attended the school and one of my friends was in the cheerleading squad. This was her first football event and I wanted to see her cheer with the rest of my friends.

After the game, during my way out of the open football stadium, a local Latin American gang fired their guns several times in the air, to mark their territory and to start a fight. The shots were fired inside the high school football stadium when everyone was about to go home, so everyone trampled each other to get away from the gang fight.

Violence, an education

In the spring semester of my senior year, metal detectors were placed at the public high school I attended in East Los Angeles. I attended Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet Sr. High School, next to the University of Southern California School of Medicine. The metal detectors were placed because there were instances when tips were given to school administrators that there was a gun in a locker that belonged to a gang member.

From all those instances I gathered some very important realizations, which are: guns can kill students and many people who have guns are not responsible.

On Dec. 14 a tragic event occurred in Connecticut. Adam Lanza, 20, opened fired in an elementary school killing 26 people and 20 of the victims are children. My theory was once again proven to be correct. Guns kill students and many people who have them are not responsible.

The argument with gun control is that the law will infringe upon the freedom to bear arms, which is constitutionally protected. Partly for recreation and self-protection, guns are thought to have their own benefits. For adults, guns can be kept for hunting or for self-protection from home robbery. For students, especially little students in kindergarten and elementary schools, guns kill people.

Are guns that important to have for recreation to begin with? If for self-protection, can a nationwide gun control law be enacted to screen the owners so machine guns cannot be easily purchased? What if gun control laws are done so that the safety of our children can be secured, would that be bad judgment?

Although guns are protection for adults, tragedies involving guns in schools have escalated throughout the years. How much violence has to occur for gun control laws to be enacted to screen gun owners for safety? How many lives can be saved? Are children not our future? Could we, as a nation, provide a better environment for our students in educational facilities by reducing the availability of weapons?

There are so many questions in sorrow that came up as I read the news about the Connecticut massacre. Why hasn’t this nation not done anything about gun laws after the Aurora movie theater massacre, which happened only months ago? What about Columbine?

The nation should change the culture about guns because we are living in times of violence.

Let’s change the armor for our students and children to be guarded with education and knowledge instead of violence and guns. We can increase the level of gun control to help our children become more mentally stable and gentle human beings living in a safer world. Also, we need to remind our children to never resort to guns to make a statement or to cause damage against another human being. Guns can kill students and many people who have them are not responsible.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.