What did you do your senior year in high school?
What are the lasting impressions of your K-12 experience? Ever organize a protest rally that attracted half a million people? Ever flip the nation’s course on a long festering debate?
We have overheard multiple conversations in the public square ever since a 19-year-old boy bought an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle and shot up his former school in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine’s Day, killing 17. And we have read myriad social media posts by folks who, apparently, believe the experience of their years and the power of their purse entitle them to dictate the framework of our nation’s gun laws.
For years — decades, actually, since Columbine — we have witnessed politicians shy away from difficult conversations about gun control while accepting campaign contributions from a soulless National Rifle Association.
Well, we’ve got news for you. The kids are stepping up and taking control of the dialogue. They have heard ad nauseam all of what the adults have said, they are calling BS and they are pressing for stricter gun control laws in the U.S.
Given how adults have failed them on this matter, we whole-heartedly support them and their effort.
If there is any doubt as to the collective audacity of these kids, consider this one frame from a storyboard built as prequel to the March for Our Lives protests that took place all across our country last month: Sarah Pepe, a student from Ohio, said her principal would only permit students to host an assembly to honor the students who died in the Parkland shooting if the kids kept it nonpolitical.
The reaction? “So we said, screw that, let’s get a bus, let’s get as many people as we can, let’s go down to this march and use our voices.”
Yes, the rage is real, the sorrow deep, and, really, who better to lead the charge for change than those who have lived the terror?
These young activists are tired of being numb to yet another school shooting. Some have survived a shooting gallery. Some have had to attend funerals of family, friends and classmates.
These are kids who have been forced to grow up in an environment of active shooter drills. They have been trained to be paranoid — not knowing who or how many are hiding a gun under the flaps of their trench coat.
When students walk into classrooms, how many think about the safest place to sit in case of an active shooter scenario?
Can any adult who has not been through a school shooting or even a false alarm know how terrifying that is? It’s a whole new trauma for this generation. How many well-meaning adults, quick to say today’s kids spend too much time on their cellphones, have had to huddle with classmates in a darkened room, texting parents, saying, “I love you,” thinking they are going to die? Thinking they are never going to see their parents again?
Here is a number — 187,000. According to exhaustive analysis by The Washington Post, that is the number of school children in the U.S., beginning with Columbine in 1999, who have experienced a shooting on campus during school hours.
Given their experience, maybe we ought to listen to those who have been there, done that.
The activists are clear: They support the 2nd Amendment to our country’s Bill of Rights, but they also want restrictions. Here is their manifesto:
● Ban semi-automatic weapons that fire high-velocity rounds.
● Ban accessories that simulate automatic weapons.
● Establish a database of gun sales and universal background checks.
● Change privacy laws to allow mental healthcare providers to communicate with law enforcement.
● Close gun show and secondhand sales loopholes.
● Allow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to make recommendations for gun reform.
● Raise the firearm purchase age to 21.
● Dedicate more funds to mental health research and professionals.
● Increase funding for school security.
When it comes to the safety and well being of our children, is any one of these a bridge too far?
Thankfully, the kids are speaking up. They are letting us all know that they have a voice in this matter and a vote in the future and that they are going to be heard — regardless of the advice of their elders.