by Maya Gurley
With the devastating amount of school shootings within the first two months of 2018, students fight to be heard surrounding the gun control controversy. Maya Gurley explores the students’ side of the fight along with a new, disputable proposal by President Trump.
18. That’s how many school shootings have taken place in the United States within the first two months of 2018. This number is far too high to be indicating the amount of times someone has opened fire on children in a school.
In the wake of these 18 inexplicable tragedies, Americans across the country, with or without connections to the victims, have undoubtedly been quick to show empathy. Everyone has been keeping these kids and their families “in their thoughts and prayers,” but according to the people we are praying for, that does nothing. Kindness and support is hardly a negative reaction, but constantly saying “I’m sorry” is doing nothing to prevent these shootings from happening again. Many people say in the aftermath of these tragedies that it is “too soon” to be talking about gun restriction laws —politicians especially use this tactic, often to delay the legislative conversation from ever occurring. But in fact, that is exactly what we need to be talking about. These same people are also saying that there is nothing we could have done to prevent these shootings from occurring, when there wasn’t even an attempt to prevent the shootings in the first place.
Guns are frighteningly easy to obtain in the US, even those of such a size and with such capability for destruction as an AR-15. No person, a teenager especially, should be able to easily buy an automatic rifle with the capacity to do so much damage. The discourse surrounding gun availability in the United States is a polarizing topic: some hold steadfastly to the Second Amendment, while others urge for a gun-free America. President Trump and much of his administration fall in the former category, recently stating that trained teachers should have guns in the classroom to protect themselves and their students against school shooters. Or, in other words, our president believes that to make guns commonplace in our school system would be an effective means of quelling violence. However, I believe we should eradicate the presence of weapons in our schools completely, and with much reason: schools are not a place for guns.
Despite its controversial nature, President Trump’s response, though it was not the one much of America wanted or needed, was a definitive plan of action. It was not “thoughts and prayers,” and in that way, it was refreshing. However, America hasn’t seen a real follow up. People want something tangible to be done about the gun violence plaguing our country, especially our schools. Students involved in the Parkland, Florida shooting have been speaking out and are angry, feeling as if they are not being heard. They are saying that adults keep dismissing them because “they are kids” and “they aren’t old enough to understand,” but they were the ones to experience gun violence firsthand. They were the ones who had to go into lockdown. They were the ones who had to run for their lives. They were the ones who had to watch their close friends and classmates get shot and die right in front of them. And yet, they are the ones who don’t feel heard.
On the contrast, some progress has been made. Two different groups are organizing protests as a response to the current situation. The Stoneman Douglas shooting survivors created the #NeverAgain movement and the March For Our Lives protest in an attempt to catalyze action to be taken in light of the increased number of recent school shootings. The main March For Our Lives protest will take place on March 24 in Washington, D.C. with others taking place in numerous cities across the United States. A second protest, the National School Walkout created by the Women’s March organizers, is asking students, teachers, administrators, and other supporters to walk out of their classrooms at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, March 14 for 17 minutes, one minute for each victim of the Stoneman Douglas shooting. Although these two events are being organized by two separate groups, they both have the same goal in mind: “no longer risk[ing] their lives waiting for someone else to take action to stop the epidemic of mass school shootings that has become all too familiar” (March For Our Lives mission statement).
Policy makers and government officials need to recognize and listen to what these students and groups have to say and take them seriously. They might be young, but they have experienced more than anybody, let alone a kid, should ever have to experience in his or her life. Something needs to be done so that we won’t be saying “there’s nothing we could’ve done to stop it” anymore. So that our “thoughts and prayers” are not the only thing we offer. This means government officials need to start listening to these kids, their families, and the rest of the country. Laws need to be made and safety needs to be returned to our schools so that we know we are going to a safe place rather than a potential crime scene. Instead of sitting around feeling pity for the victims and anyone affected by the shootings, action needs to be taking place to make sure it doesn’t happen again.