March 27, 2018
Students Walkout for Change After Parkland Shooting
After Growing Up Around Mass Shootings, Of Course Students Speak Up
Upheld in history textbooks and citizens across the political spectrum, the right and privilege to express ideas freely is a cornerstone of American politics and philosophy. Actions based in civil disobedience, peaceful protest, and benevolent ambition have historically added a glimmer of hope for a better future when change and compromise appeared unattainable. Aligning with this non-partisan concept, the survivors of the Parkland school shooting called on children across the nation to stand up to support them in promoting gun safety. These American children, as our interim Governor would say, are the ‘agenda’ that ‘the left wing’ is using to control America’s kids. With the help of other students of similar political and sympathetic reactions, the national walkout on March 17th was organized by students for students. It served as an voluntary opportunity for Magnet students to raise their voices about gun safety and the subject of gun control, often inherently perceived as partisan and unconstitutional, to be introduced as a discussion of safety rather than a bartering of rights.
I, along with many other students, took advantage of this opportunity to either speak up or remain silent and did so without a misconstrued ‘agenda’ poisoning our independent thought. Unfortunately, some students walked out to miss class, chat with friends, or avoid being held accountable for their opinions. Fortunately, silence is harder to hear than spoken word and it would not amount to anything more than an empty argument if amplified. For those who dissented, they were well in their right. I suspect they too experience partisan bias in an ever polarizing America and yet managed to form an opinion based on their own thinking and environment. There is nothing dishonest about being influenced by individual experience, and you do not necessarily become subject to the control of a political party or interest group that you align with in order to bring about the change you would like to see or lack thereof. Although much of the protest involved the support of gun safety, it was not organized nor the sole message of any political organization. It was from students that wanted to speak up. I personally assisted in planning the walkout and can attest that not once did a politician approach me, call on me, or come to one of our lunch meetings in an attempt to brainwash us. What many politicians can attest to is the gun lobby calling on them or coming to their office in an attempt to bribe them.*
The motivation behind the walkout, the killing of seventeen in a school on top of a disproportionate amount of mass shootings, obviously involves a political sentiment because we are often able to provide safety to citizens through the creation of policy. Some argue that the recent deaths of innocent children, in addition to the yearly average of 35,141 gun violence victims (according to Everytown), are not worth going through the hassle of appropriate policymaking about gun control. This apathy lends to the U.S. making up “5% of the world’s population, but holds 31% of mass shooters” (CNN). While, fortunately, students likelihood of dying in a school is still significantly lower than dying in a car crash, they are innocent lives that had no reason to be lost at the hands of someone holding a legally obtained weapon. The concept of gun control, however, is not just because of children dying unnecessarily, but also the 96 daily gun violence deaths (Everytown). In her speech to Congress and the nation, Emma Gonzalez, a survivor of the Parkland shooting addresses the lack of government action:
This idea of change, particularly when it comes to the Second Amendment, seems to scare many politicians and citizens alike. Contrary to the common misconception of gun control, survivors of shootings and many citizens do not want to take away your handgun or hunting rifle. They want safety, improved background checks that could have stopped shooters like Nick Cruz, a digitalized system for records of gun and ammunition purchases, government funding for research, and perhaps raising the legal age of owning a firearm to the legal age to have a beer. Notice that these are not requirements for firearms, but for the people that pull the trigger. These policy points should not scare honest politicians like it does those funded by the National Rifle Association. Pitting the integrity of the constitution against victims of shootings, several politicians against gun policy create a false image of this debate.
The students of Parkland don’t want this to happen again and called upon politicians for this reason. The primary purpose of the law is to protect those under it, and, as if it’s not evident from the mass shootings that America experiences unlike any other developed country, the law is not fulfilling this mission. That is why we walked out, to make a motion for change.
*Below is a list of the top recipients of money from the gun lobby in the 2016 election cycle (ie. the NRA and the Gun Owner’s Association):
Paul Ryan: $171,977
Ryan Zinke: $79,068
Martha McSally: $77,063
Todd Young: $73,785
Joe Heck: $68,520
Mia Love: $63,350
Kevin McCarthy: $42,000
Will Hurd: $35,850
Kevin Yoder: $34,050
Bruce Poliquin: $32,400
Mike Coffman: $30,843
Ken Calvert: $30,466
Ed Royce: $29,100
Barbara Comstock: $28,407
The S.C. Representatives:
Mark Sanford: $10,860
Joe Wilson: $9,400
Trey Gowdy: $9,250
Tom Rice: $7,000
Jeff Duncan: $6,500
Why the Walkouts of Protesting Students are Wrong
I can understand the frustration among high schoolers on the issue of gun control.
If you weren’t knowledgeable about the gun control debate and went to the Academic Magnet High School/School of the Arts walkout, you may think that the NRA employs vicious assassins that murder thousands of students, and get away with it. You may think that school shootings kill a huge proportion of the population, with many students wondering if “I Am Next,” and vowing that “Never Again” will this happen. You would think that the U.S. has a movement that is demanding change from their lawmakers, and by the looks of it 2 weeks ago Wednesday, you would think they are winning. You would be wrong.
This walk-out comes in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that took place earlier this year in Parkland, Florida. Unlike previous school shootings, the student survivors of this tragic incident felt inclined to almost immediately go to the news and call on lawmakers and leaders to “fix” the gun problem in the United States. I am sympathetic with the friends and families of the victims who wanted a time of mourning and peace following the shooting, which they rightly deserved. Instead, the response they got jump started the heated gun control debate at all levels across the nation, from middle and high school students to the U.S. Congress.
The organizers of the march here at AMHS were unclear with the organization and logistics of the walk-out, and I feel bad for the pro-second amendment students who walked out for the 17 minutes of silence thinking that it would be non-political. Most of us can remember the moment of silence we had the day after the tragic Parkland shooting, with thoughts and prayers going out from AMHS to the friends and families of the victims. Now, months later, the 17 minutes of silence was a nice gesture to the victims, but ultimately a way for the organizers and photographers to draw people to the protest, and to make it seem that more people protested than actually did. This deception is nothing surprising considering the group of people involved, but it is important to note.
Two landmark gun debate cases ruled on by the Supreme Court have led to the conclusion that the modern-day pro-gun argument is more constitutionally and lawfully sound than any form of infringement on Second Amendment rights. Columbia v. Heller (2008) upheld the individual citizen’s right to own a gun for any reason, including self defense, sport, and hunting. Caetano v. Massachusetts (2016) ruled that the U.S. government, according to the second amendment, must allow all forms of “bearable arms.” This would include all non-military grade weapons, including semi-automatic rifles and high capacity magazines.
The facts of the situation according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which many on the pro-gun control side of the argument do not like, are that gun deaths among children aged 10-18 account for only 8% of deaths in this age group. This amounts to about 1,300 children per year. While the goal for this number should be zero, gun violence doesn’t affect anywhere near a majority of the 41.7 million children aged 10-18 in the U.S. I do think that common sense policies should be introduced, but what many of those protesting and walking out are advocating is radical, ineffective, and ultimately, unconstitutional.
This point leads to what really needs to be done (no, it is not banning AR-15s, or placing an age limit on law abiding citizens): fix and strengthen the background check system (especially to include police reports and juvenile records), fund and build protections and opportunities for those battling mental illnesses, and allow teachers who have the training to carry a gun in the classroom to protect the students. Had these policies been implemented, it is far less likely that 17 kids would have been killed at the hands of this deranged shooter. These points would have stayed in line with the Supreme Court as well as the Constitution, and would keep children in schools much safer than before. While arming teachers is a controversial solution to this problem, it would be an effective deterrent to the mentally ill people considering shooting up a school, and if one were to enter a school with the intent to kill, it would allow for a stronger line of defense.
I can understand the frustration in the United States, especially among entitled millenials and high school teens, on the issue of gun control. To them, and those favoring gun control, fixing this problem is as simple as banning a certain rifle, or creating more hoops for a law-abiding citizen to jump through to exercise their constitutional right. That would solve the problem right? Didn’t that deranged, mentally ill, 19 year old purchase that ‘military weapon’ legally? I would respond to those questions by saying that an AR-15 is not a military weapon, and yes, it was his Constitutional right upheld by the Supreme Court. What is NOT his Constitutionally ensured right is being reported to the FBI and police on several occasions and still purchasing this gun. Why didn’t they act on those warnings? Why didn’t the resource officer enter the building? Why didn’t the background check system pick up the reports against him heard by the police and FBI? What many protesters do not understand is that there were numerous other factors in Cruz committing this horrible act, but the debate always comes back to the easy scapegoat of guns, and to the protesters, the gun is the entire problem.
The second amendment of the United States is what makes this country special, unique, and different from the rest of the world. We allow our citizens to arm themselves in any way they feel is necessary against anything or anyone who would intend to do harm, including our government. Limiting the second amendment in any major way, such as putting a ban on certain types of guns, would lead this country down a slippery slope of gun control until the right is completely taken away.