David Frank | Hamilton College
The recent shooting in Parkland, Florida is already the eighth recorded act of gun-related harm at an American school this year. This horrific tragedy has led leaders and activists around the country to amplify cries for reform, primarily through mental health and gun control legislation. This movement appears different, however, because affected students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the scene of this most recent massacre, have been some of the loudest voices pushing for change.
First and foremost, I commend those students for having the bravery to harness this catastrophe to make a positive difference in our society. They have already witnessed true horror and are showing incredible fortitude in the face of adversity. Students around the country need to take on an active role and coerce our legislators, who have repeatedly shown incomprehensible ineptitude by offering “thoughts and prayers” rather than policy reform.
Some politicians are advocating policy changes which would worsen the issue at hand. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, for example, published his response to the Parkland shooting on February 16th. He argues that “every school in America should have several teachers and administrators” carrying concealed weapons on campus, serving as his self-proclaimed “protectors of the innocent.”
School shootings already happen with unprecedented frequency in America. Gingrich’s proposition that we put more guns into schools is irresponsible, irrational, and would only magnify this epidemic.
President Trump says that “the difficult issue of mental health” is the culprit for our school shooting problem. If that is the case, then push Congress to act on it. The only gun-related action the Trump Administration has made thus far has been to repeal an Obama-era regulation that, according to the Associated Press, would have “prevented an estimated 75,000 people with mental disorders from being able to purchase a firearm.” “Thoughts and prayers” are bad, but hypocrisy is worse.
There are two viable ways to address the matter: enhanced gun control measures or mental health reform. I am a gun owner myself, and I wholeheartedly believe in Americans’ constitutionally granted right to own firearms; however, there are certain individuals who pose a danger to society and America’s values of justice and equality. In these situations, the only way to provide security is through our government institutions. It is our civic duty to remain wary of government, but we must also protect the defenseless.
As students, we are the ones most affected by this crisis. We need to hold our politicians accountable for their perpetual inaction. I implore all students to take part in the nationwide March for Our Lives protests on March 24th. Even more importantly, write or call your representatives to let them know how you feel!
History rhymes, and time has shown that these shootings will not stop unless we coerce action. We students need to mobilize and march, write, tweet, protest, and shout from the rooftops if we must to get the message across. This is the one issue Congress cannot continue to disregard. The stakes are simply too high.