Kalilah Stein, 14, on Thursday, May 18, 2023, in her neighborhood of Carrick. Kalilah learned to shoot at a young age from her grandfather. Now she lives in a neighborhood that has seen two young people shot fatally this year. (Photo by Stephanie Strasburg/PublicSource)
As a high school student, I shouldn’t have to worry about gun violence. But in my Pittsburgh neighborhood, it’s a reality — one that’s perpetuated by polarized debate on firearms.
When teaching me how to shoot, my grandpa told me to squeeze the trigger gradually, not too suddenly, and follow through, always follow through, and you will be an excellent shot.
He taught me to respect the power a gun holds, and all that it entails. Once you pull that trigger, there is no going back. He told me, don’t put your finger on the trigger until you are ready to pull it. Until you are sure.
I get off my bus after school and walk down and past street after street where shots have been fired. Blood has been spilled. Kids have been killed. Kids have been killers. Though the rain has washed away the evidence, the sidewalks still carry the memory.
These sidewalks many of us walk every day have forced innocent minds to realize that guns are no longer toys that shoot Styrofoam. We are not playing a childish game but rather playing with people’s lives.
This year alone, a 17-year-old and a 21-year-old have been killed by guns in Carrick, my Pittsburgh neighborhood. The person charged with shooting the 17-year-old is 14. Kids younger and younger are weaning from toys to weapons.
Today, I’m nearing the end of my freshman year of high school. I am 14 years old, the same age as some killers and living in a neighborhood in which murder is a reality.
When I was younger, I refused to even touch a gun because I was too scared. So rather than shooting with the rest of my family every time we went to visit, I helped my grandfather assemble the bullets they would later use. We measured out the powder, poured it into the casing, sealed it and placed it on the rack.