I had just turned 13 the first time gun violence touched my life.
Greg Coontz’s mother, Lynn, shot and killed him and his 10-year-old sister one morning in 2008, resulting in a lockdown of the University of Louisville, where she handed her gun to a health counselor. I was in middle school with him and he had ridden my bus a few times. Our bus driver told us the news later that day and I held my friend as she cried the whole way home. Some kids put pictures and notes on his locker, but life went back to normal a couple weeks later.
When I came to college the world seemed full of hope for the future. Then Jonathan Krueger, 22, a University of Kentucky student, was shot and killed walking mere blocks from where I slept my sophomore year. I watched my sorority sisters who knew him well attempt to maintain schoolwork as their hearts broke and our hallways echoed their sobs.
I missed the first day of class last spring to attend Caleb Hallett’s funeral. At age 18, he was gunned down in Lexington when taking a friend home. I watched the slide show at his visitation for over two hours because I wasn’t ready to say goodbye.
A couple of months later, Lottie Eicher, 20, was murdered by a person who fired several shots at a backyard gathering and into a house. I traveled from school in Lexington to join my childhood friends in Louisville for a ritual I had all but become accustomed to.
Having recently celebrated my 22nd birthday, I would like to believe I am still young and full of life. Yet, my days remain tainted with death. The day after I celebrated with friends, I went to pay my respects to a 20-year-old woman who died at the end of another gun during a shooting at a concert in an art gallery.
Savannah Walker, a University of Louisville student, introduced me to lacrosse. She was driven and funny and always laughing. She and her father, Dean, our coach, were the reasons I first fell in love with lacrosse. She shouldn’t have had to die.
We should not feel comfortable raising children in a world where they learn how to order flowers for their friends’ funerals before they learn how to buy a house or start a retirement fund.
I am a full-time student with a part-time job. I went to decent schools and stayed away from the neighborhoods my parents warned me about. I am not an anomaly; neither is gun violence.
I apologize if I seem insensitive toward the individual’s right to own a gun, but it is time we take a critical look at our society’s priorities.
What good is a world full of guns if we must fill our days with this pain?
How many of our children are we willing to lose to maintain our sense of entitlement?
Tara Steiden is a senior history major at the University of Kentucky.