Hasan: Senior photos and guns, harmful or acceptable?

With gun violence being an ongoing issue in our nation, do high school seniors perpetuate the problem by submitting senior photos holding weapons?

Aleezeh Hasan

The gun debate in America has seemed never-ending. Last year was the deadliest year for school shootings in the U.S. Over 100 people were injured or killed in mass shootings that took place in American schools. Shootings continue to cause fear in Americans, and the debate on gun control remains divisive. Supporters of the Second Amendment refuse to give up their rights to carry while people on the left push for stricter laws surrounding gun ownership.  

When I was in high school and working as an editor for my school newspaper, our adviser would urge us to remove all mentions of guns. Any jokes related to murder or shootings would immediately be redacted from the paper. He explained that in the age of school shootings, these mentions were insensitive and distasteful, and that we may unintentionally be encouraging or perpetuating acts of violence. I found these comments valid, but I also did not find censorship of the paper to be correct within certain contexts. While written words in a paper may have an impact on an individual person who has premeditated a mass shooting, the use of a photo would not likely cause such tragedy. 

Students are the ones who are most impacted by the stances taken in the debate over school shootings. Across the U.S., high school seniors are currently submitting their senior pictures to their yearbooks. While many students pose with sports gear or instruments, some students have chosen to pose with their rifles. This non-traditional picture has led to controversy within individual school boards. 

In Nebraska, some school districts have decided to allow senior pictures that involve guns. These districts have decided to look at each photo on a case-by-case basis. Photos that feature a student posing with their gun slung on their back are viewed as acceptable. While photos that feature a cocked rifle are not allowed, the argument that was made for these photos was that many students use their guns for sport. Hunters and shooting sports should be allowed into the yearbook as much as a football or a tennis racket. The Nebraska school’s review is justified. As long as no form of harm or violence is displayed in the pictures, there is no reason for it to be removed. 

While Nebraskan schools opted for some allowances, a student’s photo of him posing with his hunting rifle was denied in May. The principal contended that students were not allowed to bring weapons of any form onto school property, so the yearbook should be treated the same way. I believe it’s fair for the principal to disallow pictures of certain items. But when it comes to guns, they can also be used for sport. A baseball bat could be used to seriously injure someone, but the main purpose of the object is to play a game. If students are allowed to pose with baseball bats or hockey sticks, guns should be admissible as well.

When it comes to gun control, posing with a rifle isn’t what should be found offensive. The real problem are the bloody deaths that occur in places of education. It is doubtful that school shooters view photos in yearbooks and then decide to act. Students who hold their gun in a way that isn’t threatening should be able to submit photos with guns. Athletes who participate in archery are able to pose with arrows. Guns used for recreational purposes shouldn’t be viewed differently. 

The only true way to end mass school shootings is to enact stricter gun control laws. Targeting high school students who use their guns for sport is not the answer.