Student Safety: Gun Violence in Our Community


Chamblee police officer James Stephens.

Hannah Choy, Reporter

In recent years, gun violence has become an increasingly larger issue in our society, with news of another shooting or gun-related incident becoming a common occurrence. Such events have even happened near Chamblee, with the early January 2023 shooting at Perimeter Mall and the death of a Chamblee police officer in the fall of 2022. Our high school has even faced the loss of one of our own students, Laila Harris, to gun violence.

With 51 school shootings that resulted in injuries or deaths in 2022, and six in 2023 (as of January), many schools have been enforcing stricter security measures and safety drills. This raises the question of how safe students feel at school, or even when in public– only three weeks into 2023, America has seen 39 mass shootings, defined by CNN and The Gun Violence Archive as incidents where at least four people were shot.

The prevalence of gun violence has led some students to track these incidences to stay updated on any developments.

“I follow this one Instagram account called ATLSCOOP, and it has a lot of updates like when there are shootings, especially since there’s been a decent amount in Buckhead and Downtown,” said Ryan Lovejoy (‘23).

Similarly, Erin Myers-Beck (‘26) tracks shootings out of caution for her safety.

“I think tracking shootings contributes to my safety because I try to figure out where they are so I can know how close they are to where I am,” said Myers-Beck.

This is especially a priority to some students because of the shooting at Perimeter Mall earlier this year, a location fairly close to Chamblee High School.

“The shooting is just surprising, but also kind of not because I know gun violence is such an issue here in the U.S. There’s also knowing Perimeter Mall is so close to where I live, so it’s kind of scary,” said Cora Scherrer (‘26).

Likewise, Myers-Beck finds the event to be a mixture of a surprise and an anticipated situation.

“Honestly, it kind of shook me because it’s relatively close to Chamblee, but with the number of shootings around, it didn’t surprise me because the amount of shootings you see in the news right now is kind of scary, and it’s like I’m expecting another one to happen,” said Myers-Beck.

Lovejoy, who was actually driving by the mall when the shooting happened, expresses similar reactions to how gun violence has become such a common occurrence. 

“The Perimeter Mall shooting is just sad. It’s sad how entrenched we’ve become in all this gun violence, and it’s just sad for our society,” said Lovejoy.

Such incidents can impact individuals’ perception of their safety in public, particularly with events that occur close to home.

“I was definitely shocked to hear about the mall shooting, like, d*mn,” said David Zhang (‘25). “It’s kind of hard to feel safe in public now sometimes.”

This possibility of shootings and gun violence is a particularly lingering thought for students in situations with large groups of people.

“I think about gun violence and shootings a lot, especially at school because I’m in a really large public space with a lot of people and definitely when I’m in large gatherings,” said Myers-Beck.

Such feelings of decreased safety in situations with large groups of people were a common pattern among the interviewees.

“I do feel safe in public generally, but I feel like in the back of my mind I’m always thinking, what happens if there’s a shooting right now? Especially at concerts or at train stations or wherever I am with lots of people,” said Lovejoy.

Some students found the same to be true when at school.

“To be honest, this school is big, and I feel kind of safe, but I feel the safest at my house,” said Frey Hernandez (‘26).

In late January of 2023, a shooting threat was found in one of the bathrooms at Chamblee High, prompting further feelings of uncertainty and danger at school.

“At school, I typically feel safe, but in this past week, I have not because of the threat,” said Niharika Anand (‘25).

Lovejoy echoes similar sentiments about his perceived level of safety at school.

“It’s sort of a day-by-day basis at this point. With all these threats, like today*, I feel on edge a lot of times, but I generally feel safe, especially when we’re in classrooms because I know my teachers are prepared,” said Lovejoy.

Other students feel that school is a relatively safe place due to familiarity.

“I generally feel safer at school because it’s a place that I know, so it’s easier to feel safer with that in mind,” said Zhang.

Myers-Beck proposes more lockdown drills and an emphasis on the seriousness of these practices to make students feel safer at school.

“I think we should do more lockdown drills. I know the administration talks about them and the seriousness of it, but I have some teachers who seem to take it less seriously than others, and I believe that it’s very important to talk about these drills more in classes,” said Myers-Beck.

Anand also believes that there should have been more precautions taken on the day of the potential shooting.

“I’m not really sure exactly what the school should do, but I feel like the school should have taken it more seriously. At the least they should have done a first-level lockdown,” said Anand.

Other students propose increasing security at Chamblee to help prevent potential incidents.

“I think there should be more security. There’s not enough, and they could be on the lookout for anything suspicious going on,” said Hernandez.

Zhang feels that the school’s response has been appropriate with the 2022-23 school year seems to have more lockdown drills and discussions about safety than the previous year.

“I think what the school is doing is fine. I feel like they could have been a little more direct with some messages, but other than that, I think they’re doing fine,” said Zhang.

On a greater scale, many students believe that there should be greater national regulations on guns.

“I personally believe we should have more laws around who can have guns, and we should work more to make sure fewer people can get guns with more guidelines around that,” said Myers-Beck.

Some students have experienced gun violence themselves, or have close acquaintances that have, a jarring aspect of the reality of life in America.

“My parents were going shopping at the mall about two years ago to buy something for the garden, and someone was shot in the Apple store opposite where they were,” said Anand. “I was really worried for my parents until they got home.”

While guns are often used for sport and recreation, Anand feels that the misuse of these weapons eclipses their positive characteristics.

“Honestly, this is kind of strong, but I feel like the government should ban them. Even though a lot of people have fun with guns for sport, I feel how people misuse guns outweighs that,” said Anand.

Hernandez hopes that regulations would specifically help prevent minors from accessing guns, an issue that has regained media traction after a six-year-old shot his teacher a few weeks ago. After warnings that the boy might possess a firearm, the school failed to prevent the child from injuring his teacher while she tried to get the rest of the students to safety. This incident has led to increased calls for gun control, as the boy shouldn’t have been able to have a gun in his possession so easily.

“I think there should be gun control and regulations on gun access, especially since it’s easy for a child to access a gun because the rules haven’t been enforced that well,” said Hernandez.

However, the effectiveness of such regulations is questionable with the great debate over the constitutionality of gun rights and strong gun rights supporters.

“There are always restrictions that can be placed on guns, but I feel like a lot of people would still find a way to get them,” said Scherrer.

The move to ban guns altogether has faced much resistance and is a very polarizing topic, leading to little progress being made on the issue.

“It’s kind of hard to just ban guns outright. I think there should be more restrictions, perhaps, or something else on the matter, but I don’t really know,” said Zhang.

While Chamblee is only a microcosm of the United States, such safety concerns and calls for gun regulation are evident across the country. Some schools in Georgia have consequently enacted various policies in hopes of creating a safer environment, such as metal detectors and clear backpacks/bags.

“I know Atlanta Public Schools have started doing metal detectors at all middle schools and high schools. That might be a little far, but it could be a good idea in some ways,” said Lovejoy.

For the time being, guns remain a topic of contention in America. Those for increased regulation point to school shootings and other gun violence as evidence. Gun culture, and with it, gun-related injuries and deaths, is something unique to the United States among all other developed countries.

“We need more regulation. I understand having guns for self-defense, but at the same time, it’s just become an epidemic. We don’t need as many guns as we have in our society. In Europe, for example, there are very few shootings because access to guns is more strict and the culture is a lot different,” said Lovejoy.

Until such change occurs in our country and society, the fear of being in a school shooting or facing gun-related violence is an unfortunate reality many students have.


*This interview was conducted on the day of the potential shooting expressed in the bathroom threat, January 27th, 2023.