On the Florida shooting: A call to action
On Jan. 25, I wrote an article about the infuriating futility of the reactions and debate over gun control in the wake of the Kentucky school shooting. However, I feel inclined after the Florida shooting to addendum my original statement because one key factor changed. More people than ever are getting to hear directly from the victims of the shooting and their message is clear and direct: We don’t need sympathy, we need action now. Before they even knew the intricacies of what happened, students were on air calling for action on gun control. The students have already trekked down to Tallahassee, Fla. to protest outside the state capital, and they planned a “March for Our Lives,” scheduled for March 24 in Washington, D.C. During a school walkout, students Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg proclaimed, “We are going to be the last mass shooting.”
The response of these students is a crucial distinction from previous mass shootings, effectively eliminating the “Now is not the time for any sort of policy related discussion. We need time to mourn blah blah blah…” sentiment often believed to be true. These students don’t want anyone’s empty sympathy or pity; they want meaningful change so that no one has to worry whether or not they will still be alive at the end of the school day. No longer will the right be able to scapegoat the victims through thoughts and prayers. It’s pretty hard to justify saying, “Now isn’t the time to talk politics for the sake of the victims,” when the victims are the ones who want to talk politics.
Of course, this uncommon outspokenness by the victims hasn’t been without backlash form the supposed “pro-life” right. Criticism has ranged from simple infantilizing of the students all the way to downright conspiracy theories. Former Republican Rep. Jack Kingston said in a CNN interview, “Sorrow can very easily be hijacked by left-wing groups…Do we really think 17-year-olds on their own are going to plan a nationwide rally?” Of course! No 17-year-old could possibly form their own opinions. They must be pawns of the Soros-controlled liberal media deep state in an attempt to destroy Americans’ right to own military-grade weaponry. Seems plausible. And they would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for you meddling Republicans!
I find it very ironic for the members of the Woodstock generation to be calling out young adults for voicing their political opinions. The notion that they’re “too young to know what they’re talking about” is especially infuriating. Why is there this assumption that young people can’t possibly or aren’t allowed to have opinions on political matters because of their age? Isn’t it possible that seeing your friend be indiscriminately gunned down in front of you in the lunchroom would make you want to get rid of the thing that killed them? Stop telling young people their voices don’t matter.
I see this as the beginning of a trend in the narrative around mass shootings. No longer will the victims and survivors be told to go home and mourn and be helplessly kept out of the conversation. They will now be at the forefront challenging the establishment to do something to protect their lives and the lives of others from mindless gun violence. Hold your thoughts and prayers, they don’t want them. Instead, join them at the March for Our Lives this March.