March 20, 2018

Why was My 12 Year Old Self in Possession of Something so Powerful?

By Will Powers

I came here today to rally alongside passionate and intelligent students advocating for students’ safety in schools. But I also came here to provide a unique and often unheard perspective on the issue of gun control. I grew up and live in a small town in southern Kentucky, Somerset. I love my town, from our school traditions to our beautiful lake; But underneath all of the beauty, traditions, and mom & pop shops, there is a prevalent regressive culture and deeply rooted in this culture are guns.

I shot my first gun when I was 8. A .22 caliber hunting rifle. As I lifted it and made my first shot right into a Pepsi can, I was joyous. In my innocent mind I was holding a toy only used to harm Pepsi cans and deer, not a weapon that tears families, communities, and countries apart, not something capable of taking lives of kids my age.

Growing up, I was exposed to guns quite often. I would go hunting with my dad on weekends. I always had fun. I never had a reason to think that “guns were bad”. I would talk about guns with other kids;they were all just as immersed in this culture as I was. We wore camo clothing as a symbol of our pride in hunting, and we would praise each other when we bragged about the deer we took down on our recent hunting trips.

All of my beliefs and personal values were shaped by those held by my parents and the local culture. I was taught: Christianity is king, Obama is bad, republican for life, and liberals only want to take our guns and freedom.

But as I grew up, I started to reject these notions. It all started with what I held so close: guns.

I remember the day,

December 14th, 2012. I was in six grade when the Sandy Hook massacre took place, I couldn’t believe It. Someone used a gun to kill innocent kids younger than I was?! It was something that never crossed my mind. If guns could kill, if guns were made to kill, how come I didn’t know a single gun owner that had killed someone?

I remember coming to school the next day and talking to our teachers about it. They wanted to make us feel safe and make sure our concerns were heard. But it was hard after that. I felt scared of school.

After Sandy Hook, I stopped shooting guns. It didn’t feel right anymore. Why was my 12 year old self in possession of something so powerful?

I began to realize that we have a gun problem in this country. I began to reject the culture, reject the oh-so-convenient notion that this is a “mental health problem, not a gun problem”. I saw what happened in Sandy Hook, I saw what happened in Marshall County, I saw what happened in Parkland. I know it’s a gun problem.

I wish our lawmakers would protect us. If it’s a mental health problem, they should provide schools with funding for counselors. They should support organizations that promote mental health awareness. If you think it’s a gun problem, then advocate for background checks, waiting periods, and bans on assault rifles. Coming from a hunting family, I know that assault rifles aren’t made for hunting. They are made for killing.

Today, I advocate for mental health awareness AND gun control.

If I was able to defy the ideals that have been ingrained by my community, then lawmakers can defy lobbyist and corporations to speak for ALL of their constituents.

These remarks were deliverd at the March For Our Lives Kentucky Rally organized by the Student Voice Team on the steps of the capitol in Frankfort on March 20, 2018.

Will Powers

Will Powers

Will is a Yoda Corps Advisor of KSVT and former member. He graduated from Somerset High School in 2019 and is a student at Occidental College.