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Teens react to Uvalde shooting

MILES PARKS, HOST:

A question on the minds of many parents and teachers right now - how are young people feeling after the mass shooting in Texas? Parents all over the country are worried about their own children's safety, especially while at school. But unfortunately, violence is a reality for many American students. Here in Washington, D.C., students have their own experience with shootings as well as other types of violence. Just last month, a gunman shot more than 200 bullets toward Edmund Burke School, injuring three adults and one student. The city has also seen an uptick in carjackings, stabbings and shootings involving teenagers. So how are young people experiencing all this? We've called two students here in the district to find out. Ingrid Gruber is a senior at the Edmund Burke School in northwest D.C., and she joins us now. Hey, Ingrid.

INGRID GRUBER: Hi. How are you?

PARKS: I'm doing well. Thank you for being with us. And Tamia Robinson is an eighth grade student at the Digital Pioneers Academy in Southeast D.C. She's also a reporter for DCist Youth Journalism Workshop and recently wrote about improving mental health resources for students in the city. She also joins us now. Hey, Tamia. Welcome.

TAMIA ROBINSON: Hi. Nice to meet you.

PARKS: Thank you, guys, again so much for being with us. I want to just start by asking, given all of the events in last week and really the last month here in D.C., how are you guys feeling? Tamia, let's just start with you.

ROBINSON: I feel afraid, afraid for myself and my family members who go to school, like my nieces, nephews, brothers, sisters. It's scary that school used to be a place where we felt safe and didn't have to worry about what's going to happen here, how we were being protected there. It's scary.

PARKS: And, Ingrid, it's been about a month since the shooting outside your school. How are you taking all this in?

GRUBER: To see multiple other events happening across the country - it's frustrating and it's sad to see that nothing is being done about it. And to have experienced it, it definitely gives me a different perspective. I struggled with kind of grappling with the effects - the mental health effects, the physical effects after the shooting. But I'm 18, so imagine how a fourth-grader is going through that. It's hard.

PARKS: Do you feel like as you're going into school, is this something that's on your mind as a thing that could happen?

GRUBER: I always - you know, there's this thought where it's like it's always a possibility, but you never think it's going to happen to you. And then, you know, it does. It did happen. And even though I wasn't expecting it, it didn't really surprise me. Since the Parkland shooting, when I really became aware of gun violence in the U.S. - I was 14 when it happened - you know, I started to have those thoughts in my head where it's like, you know, it could happen. It is a possibility, especially in a city. And I did, like, unfortunately know exactly what to do. And I don't think any kid should be prepared for a situation like that. It's an unwanted and unnecessary burden for kids, especially in the U.S. to have.

PARKS: Tamia, as we mentioned, you wrote about youth mental health in the district for DCist, and I just wonder what you think about the toll that this latest bout of gun violence this week is going to take on, you know, people you know, people in your class, people at your school.

ROBINSON: So I think that's a touchy topic. It'll be hard to explain. But in my opinion, it will cause some students to be - to break down, maybe stay stuck in one area, or sit with depression and fear and not really interact with the world anymore. It will cause a lot of, I guess, self-destruction in a way, like not interacting, not responding, staying to themselves, being afraid to go to school, being afraid to leave their house, to even go to the corner store.

PARKS: Yeah. I'm curious - when it comes to adults, this city, D.C., is in the middle of a mayor's race right now. And it's an election year across the country. Ingrid, if you had the chance to talk to lawmakers, people like Mayor Muriel Bowser or even President Biden, about this issue, what would you say to somebody in power right now?

GRUBER: I think it would just be a lot of what, you know, people across the country are asking for, is serious change. The main thing is there's just absolutely no need for assault weapons to be present in your day-to-day life. Nobody needs access to it. That's kind of the biggest change I would ask for, is banning those weapons. And, you know, background checks are important. But, you know, even those littler things don't prevent this from happening. The man who shot at my school bought his weapons legally. So, you know, it can make a difference, but it's not a difference that's, you know, big enough. I would also ask that people think about the - like, the lives that are being lost every day to gun violence instead of just getting the votes because I think that's what a lot of it has turned into, is focusing on reelection. And people need help. Our country needs help. And we're not getting it from elected officials.

PARKS: You both are pretty young, obviously. Tamia, you're 14. Ingrid, you're 18. I wonder what you would say to people who just say this is not what children should be thinking about, exposed to, talking about. Tamia, what do you think about that? I mean, is this something that you are engaging with already because it's all around you? Or is this something that you feel like you should not be thinking about until you're a little bit older?

ROBINSON: I feel like I shouldn't be exposed to it, being 14 years old, and that kids younger than me shouldn't be exposed to it. But it has become our reality. It affects us, so it needs our opinion, and it needs our voices to help cause a change. But we're definitely too young for this.

PARKS: That was Tamia Robinson. She's an eighth grade student at Digital Pioneers Academy, a public charter school in southeast D.C. Tamia Robinson, thank you so much for being with us.

ROBINSON: Thank you for having me.

PARKS: And Ingrid Gruber - she's a senior at Edmund Burke School in northwest D.C. Ingrid, thank you so much for being with us.

GRUBER: Thank you. Bye, Tamia.

ROBINSON: Bye, Ingrid. Nice meeting you.

GRUBER: Nice to meet you, too.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.