When we see families lose children, and teachers shielding seven-year olds from hail storms of bullets, (in the Sandy Hook Massacre 156 shots were fired in the span of five minutes), we feel the collective need to act. Or we should. Yet we have politicians respond with words like “We have to harden our schools not soften them up. A gun-free zone to a killer or somebody who wants to be a killer is like going in for ice cream. It’s like here I am take me,” said President Donald J. Trump in a listening session about gun-violence and school shootings.
This writing will not focus on defending a party, slandering a party, or pushing an anti- or pro- agenda at all. It serves only as a hopeful wake-up call. President Trump has pushed some interesting agendas in the wake of the Parkland shooting.
He surprised his base by backing more intensive background checks, a higher focus on mental health in those checks, and raising the minimum age to a uniform 21 year of age for all gun purchases. As promising as it sounds, to have a Republican President pushing for tighter gun laws in the wake of these awful massacres, there’s a flipside to the coin, as usual.
Former representative of Georgia and current political commentator Jack Kingston lent these words to the American teenage survivors of the Parkland, Florida shooting on Feb. 14.
“Do we really think that 17-year-olds on their own are going to plan a nationwide rally?”
Kingston then continued to suggest that left-wing liberal groups had “hijacked” these teenagers to push an agenda. CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota rebuked him stating she “talked to these kids before they knew the body count of how many of their friends had been killed. No one had talked to them yet.
They hadn’t been indoctrinated by some left-wing group. They were motivated by what they saw and what they endured.”
Donald Trump Jr. took to Twitter to show his outright disrespect for the tragedy these kids had been through when he liked two separate tweets pushing conspiracy theories that say this tragedy and its student response were a hoax to propagate leftist gun control activism.
Jaclyn Corin, a public student leader of the “Never Again” movement to end gun violence in schools, organized a rally
of more than 100 students in a single day. The students didn’t stop with a display of solidarity. They moved into small groups to speak and reason with Democrat and Republican lawmakers about the issue of gun control.
We can’t allow voices of victims to be stifled. We see that argument in the sexual assault issue we face in America today as well. No victim can be left to be silenced, especially when their sole goal, driven out of loss and pain and grief, is to better the world and prevent a travesty like a school massacre.
All politics aside, if we stifle the voices who call us to better our society, then what will we be left with? Unfortunately, politics never stays aside very long.
The true split of the problem begins here: A large faction of the American people don’t see this issue as a gun control problem. They see a problem with a lack of armed school officials, or a need for special military training for 20% of a schools’ full-time teachers. This opinion needs to be respected. Our country has a hard time feeling that an opinion is valid even when it is diametrically opposed to their own. We like to think that we respect opinions, but truly we only respect the opinions that we can live with.
What we need to do is accept that these antonymous opinions are still valid, but also fight for our own position with enough respect and intelligence to make a discourteous change.
No person with sound intelligence can dispute that America has a problem with gun violence in our schools. If 21 six and seven-year olds can be shot dead without making one think there may be a problem, then we have a bigger issue in American mentality. However, most do agree on the front that action needs to be taken. The lively debate now centers on what those actions must be. Too often we get overwhelmed with the raw emotion of what is happening in the world and forget that concrete action needs to be taken to stem the violence until we can stop it. Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has initiated the gun control activism organization Every town for Gun Safety, funded by $50 million of Bloomberg’s own money. This organization intends to be a counterweight to the influence of the National Rifle Association (NRA), and has a specific agenda including stricter background checks, laws that would prohibit domestic abuse perpetrators from possessing firearms, and tougher laws on trafficking guns. The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence also became a major contributing organization to the movement when it became an umbrella organization of over 48 religious affiliations, all fighting to pare back concealed-carry laws and prevent gun related suicides.
Both of these organizations have a strong online presence for anyone looking to donate or support them.
Many right-leaning reasoners would argue that these laws that the leftist groups fight for so vehemently are only helpful if they are followed, and so tighter gun laws will not deter those inclined to kill with guns. This sounds like it’s a logical argument on the surface but if you probe, you see it’s close to baseless.
The foundation of this argument says: Why should the legislature write, enforce, or support laws for tighter gun control if many gunmen obtain and possess their firearms illegally? However, that logic can be applied to all laws both criminal and civil. It would be equivalent to ask: Why should the legislature write, enforce or support a law against murder when murderers will undoubtedly break it?
The answer is simple: because nothing short of physical detainment can prevent a human from exercising free will, however laws, morals, ethics, and the social contract we live in allow us to deter these lawbreakers and grants us a course of action to take when these tragedies wrack our nation. An argument stating stricter gun laws would be ineffective, due to killers being un-phased by the illegality of their actions, is almost saying to live in an anarchical society is a direction this nation should head in, if all law-abiders will abide regardless and all lawbreakers will break regardless.
So, once again we plunge into the debate of what to change, how to change it, and what the first step is.
It’s true that college students may not have all of the answers, but clearly neither do our politicians, our military, or our founding fathers (though that is not a sign for any of us to stop trying or to inhibit others from trying). Many clings to the Second Amendment as a reason to loosen, maintain, or protect gun ownership laws. What we must understand is how much we have changed as a nation, both technologically and socially. As a newly liberated country in the late 1700s, an armed society was necessary as we didn’t yet have an established military, and the threat of invasion by England or other empires was a genuine concern.
Now, as the highest spender on national military forces in the world, that argument doesn’t hold water. Further, guns in colonial and post-colonial America were dramatically different than they are now. The civilians then owned four-and-a-half foot, seven to ten-pound rifles that commonly missed person-sized targets at distances of 10 feet. These rifles had an average loading time of 20 seconds per single shot. Today, gunmen have the capability to fire one hundred bullets per minute, with scopes, dot sights, and accuracies that blow away the guns that the original Second Amendment was written for. We can’t allow our Constitution or Bill of Rights to inhibit the safety of hundreds of our own citizens every year. I am a firm and stable proponent of both those documents as well as the right to bear arms. We simply need to find the line between necessary and insanely dangerous.
The fine line is elusive and will probably never be agreed on by anything close to a majority however that difficulty and ambiguity doesn’t abscond us or liberate us from the responsibility to find it. For the children since Sandy Hook who are gone now, we fight. For the parents who no longer have a baby to tuck in at night and reread “Goodnight,
Moon” to, we fight. For the countless brothers, sisters, cousins, and friends that don’t get to call their person up every day or say, “I love you,” to anymore, we fight.
It’s not easy at all when we become so desensitized to this violence. In fact, we’ve become desensitized to the word “desensitized”. We all see this violence in the news, on social media, or in print. We do next to nothing. We certainly don’t do enough, and the people who are doing enough, we don’t have enough of them. We have to become them. Mr. Rogers put it memorably, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” And if you can’t find one, be one. It needs to stop.