Olivia Julianna was ten years old when a shooter slaughtered 20 children in Newtown, Connecticut, in a massacre that shocked the entire world.
“I remember my parents crying as they watched the news.” “At the time, I didn’t really understand what was going on,” Julianna, a student and political strategist with Gen Z for Change, told Newsweek.
However, in the years since, she has recalled how drills to prepare for such an attack have become a part of school life.
“I had my first school shooting drill in fourth grade,” she explained. “We were told to be quiet, so we locked the door and turned off the lights.” This became standard procedure. It was simply something we did, something you needed to do in order to prepare. “I wasn’t truly shaken to my core until the Parkland shooting. I was a high school freshman. The drills became more intense and frequent.”
She recalled school officials walking around shaking doorknobs and banging on doors to simulate what it would be like if an active shooter was on campus. “I was scared. I was terrified to go to school on numerous occasions,” she stated.
And she recalls feeling sick to her stomach at the prospect of returning to school in the aftermath of a school shooting. “Because it wasn’t your school today, but you don’t know if it will be your school tomorrow,” she explained.
It was Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, a small heavily Latino town in Julianna’s home state of Texas, on Tuesday.
Authorities said 18-year-old Salvador Ramos barricaded himself inside a fourth-grade classroom and shot dead 19 students and two teachers before being killed by police in the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012.
“I wish I could tell you that I screamed and cried when I heard about the shooting,” Julianna said. “That I yelled in rage or sorrow—but I haven’t.” I don’t believe the gravity of what has occurred has hit me, which I believe is tragic because it demonstrates how we have become desensitized to this issue. Either that or I am still in shock.”
She added: “I was 10 years old when Sandy Hook happened, now 10 years later the same thing is happening and nothing has been done to stop children from dying in schools.”
The shooting on Tuesday has reignited America’s gun control debate, with Democrats calling for stricter gun laws and Republican lawmakers arguing that making it more difficult for shooters to target schools is the solution.
“I think it’s ridiculous to think there’s a single solution to an issue that has become so deeply ingrained in this country,” Julianna said. “The two actions are not mutually exclusive, and any politician who acts as if they are is naïve and disappointing. To combat this, we can and must take bold action.”
Julianna blames the shooting on “every politician who has taken money from the NRA.”
“I blame every politician who has passed the lax and dangerous gun laws that exist here in Texas,” she said, adding that their “recklessness, their performative constitutionalism has resulted in violence and death.”
She singled out Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, accusing him of regularly fanning “the flames of extremism and white supremacy” and noting that the state had seen a number of major mass shootings during his tenure, including the 2019 El Paso Walmart shooting.
“No matter how much you claim to be pro-life, Greg Abbott, the blood on your hands says otherwise,” she added, referring to the state’s strict abortion ban.
The Uvalde shooting has fueled Julianna and Gen Z for Change’s efforts to unseat pro-gun legislators in Texas, and she has urged voters to vote out incumbents such as state Rep. Briscoe Cain.
The coalition of creators and activists is using their social media clout to rally support for candidates they believe will make Texas safer for students, including Beto O’Rourke for governor, Mike Collier for lieutenant governor, and Rochelle Garza for attorney general.