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Taking Matters Into Their Own Hands

After the recent shooting at a Florida high school, students have spoken up and sparked national debate about firearms.

Marjory+Stoneman+Douglas+High+School+student+Emma+Gonzalez+wipes+away+tears+during+a+CNN+town+hall+meeting
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Emma Gonzalez wipes away tears during a CNN town hall meeting

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Emma Gonzalez wipes away tears during a CNN town hall meeting

Michael Laughlin

Michael Laughlin

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Emma Gonzalez wipes away tears during a CNN town hall meeting

Richard Molina, News Editor

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Mass shootings, unfortunately, are nothing new in the United States, going back as far as 1949 when 28 year old Howard Unruh shot and killed 13 people while taking a walk through his Camden, New Jersey neighborhood.

The recent tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that left 17 people dead at the hands of 19 year-old Nikolas Cruz has, once again, sparked national debate over the accessibility of firearms. This time, however, the youth are taking it upon themselves to speak out against idle politicians who continually receive donations from the National Rifle Association (NRA).

Before politicians had the chance to send their “thoughts and prayers” student-led anti-gun rallies were launched across the nation. Survivors of the Parkland tragedy held a rally in Fort Lauderdale and even met with local lawmakers, demanding they take immediate action.

“If all our government can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it’s time for victims to be the change that we need,” began 18 year-old Parkland survivor Emma González, who now has more followers on Twitter than the NRA, in an eloquent, impassioned speech that has trended widely on social media.

“To the politicians who sit in their gilded house and senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have ever been done to prevent this, we call B.S.” González said . “They say that us kids don’t know what we’re talking about, that we’re too young to understand how the government works, we call B.S.”

The students have even had to endure several additional attacks after the tragic shooting, this time from right-wing media outlets and internet trolls. These attacks range from reducing González to a “brown bald lesbian girl”, to claiming some of the outspoken survivors to be paid actors.

After Parkland survivor and student journalist David Hogg rapidly and eloquently responded to the tragedy, the conservative website Gateway Pundit claimed “it appears he was heavily coached on lines and is merely reciting a script.”

Editor-in-chief for the Daily Wire and darling among conservative youth Ben Shapiro added to the conversation, stating: “the whole reason that young people are generally less capable of strong decision-making is that the emotional centers of the brain are overdeveloped in comparison with the rational centers of the brain.”

Advocates of gun rights have come up with a plethora of solutions aside from tighter gun control, such as setting up metal detectors in schools or hiring armed security details. President Trump, who claimed he “would have run into school during a shooting even without a gun”, has even suggested training and arming educators.

Some of these strategies, however, have already been tried and proven ineffective. In September of 2014, a teacher at Westbrook Elementary School in Taylorsville, Utah accidentally discharged a firearm and shot herself in the leg.

Metal detectors have long been employed in urban schools and schools with a student of color majority, yet these tragic school shootings continue to happen in mostly rural areas with a majority white population

The NRA is easily the most well-known and powerful gun advocacy organization in the United States. Throughout much of the association’s history, it has been at the forefront of combating gun control reform, but during the 60s, when the Black Panther Party of Oakland, California took defending their communities from police brutality into their own hands by openly arming themselves, the NRA supported the 1967 California Mulford Act, effectively banning the carrying of loaded firearms in public.

Exact interpretations of the second amendment right to bear arms have been a point of contention ever since the amendment’s implementation, and even more so in today’s political climate. The 2nd Amendment states, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

For some, the word “militia” is the key component, suggesting the right of a community to establish an armory of weapons accessible to all its constituents, and not necessarily the right to privately own firearms. Gun advocates tend to focus on the “shall not be infringed” aspect, claiming it to defend the individual right to own and amass firearms.

While a solution to prevent mass shootings remains to be seen, one thing is for certain—the youth will once again be the agents of change. While the work Parkland students are doing is important and deserves to be recognized, it is equally important to note that black teens have been doing gun reform activism for years, particularly within the Black Lives Matter movement, without the mainstream support now given to the Parkland survivors.

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Taking Matters Into Their Own Hands