It has been a rough week. Following the news of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla. the country has found itself, yet again, revisiting the gun control debate. 14 high school students and three staff members tragically were killed, the youngest student was just 14 years old. This school shooting is fundamentally different for a very important reason: the victims and survivors all grew up in the world of social media. They are perfectly capable of starting and upholding a campaign to make sure that something like this never happens again.
However, this school shooting is tragically similar to the 212 others that have happened in the United States since 2000: a mentally ill person gains access, through legal means, to an assault rifle. Politicians offer their thoughts and prayers, bans on automatic weapons are considered before being set aside, and the world continues on just as before. While this time it does feel different- with marches and town halls being meticulously planned- there is still no sign that actual policy will change. The Feb. 21 town hall hosted by CNN was a two hour long showcase of Republican detachment on the issue- Sen. Marco Rubio, (R-FL) continued to defend both the National Rifle Association and semiautomatic weapons, in front of the surviving students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High and their parents. Through the boos from the crowd, he doled out platitudes and vague promises to reexamine his positions on issues like limiting magazine sizes. This proves that it is unlikely that true gun reform, like banning bump stocks and semiautomatic weapons, will happen while Republicans control all branches of government.
Instead of popular gun reforms such as banning bump stocks and closing the loopholes in the assault weapons ban, conservatives (including President Trump) have introduced the idea of arming teachers as a solution to school shootings. But you can’t fight fire with fire- adding more guns to the equation, at best, changes nothing. At worst, it makes school even more dangerous for students to attend. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High’s resource officer, Scot Peterson, was armed. Instead of using his firearm to stop the killer, Officer Peterson stood outside and did nothing for the duration of the shooting. When a trained deputy, a man who served in the Broward County Sheriff’s Department for 33 years, does nothing 7- how can we expect an untrained teacher to do better? Arming teachers can only end in more violence- guns are then made available in the school building, in every classroom, just inches away from students. If tempers get hot, and either a teacher or a student reaches for the gun, the unspeakable may happen.
Students all across the country have poured into the streets in peaceful marches, they have recorded themselves calling for action and change in legislation. A father confronted Donald Trump, asking how many other kids have to die for the government to actually do something.
As incredible and inspiring as it is to see young people taking matters into their hands and fight for the future they deserve, it is important to keep in mind that not everyone has the privilege of speaking out and being praised. Students that protested in Ferguson after Michael Brown’s murder were labeled as thugs and criminals, and people in less affluent areas than Parkland, Fla. do not have the luxury of standing up for themselves without facing repercussions.
Most importantly, people all around the country need to open their eyes and actually give a shit about the situation at hand. It is unacceptable to look at the news of yet another school shooting and shrug it off, dismissing it an unsurprising and unavoidable tragedy. We need to wholeheartedly criticize and ban this notion that sending “thoughts and prayers” after a massacre like this counts as a solution. We need to read the news, speak loudly against the violence children face in our schools and the harassment women face in our streets.
Photo courtesy of Gerald Herbert/AP.