I have debated whether to write this post all week, but I’ve realized that remaining silent is more problematic than speaking up.
This morning, students at Olympic Heights High School in West Boca, FL walked out of class to protest gun violence after the school shooting in Parkland, FL earlier this week. Students of Stoneman Douglas are calling for protests, marches, and amendments calling leaders on their “BS.” If they are brave enough to speak out, then certainly I should be too.
When is it enough?
Columbine. Sandy Hook. Parkland. How many students have to die before our leaders stand up and say, “Enough. This ends now.”
I’m a teacher. Going into work the day after a school shooting that took place only an hour or so from where I work and live was eye opening. There were reassurances given and there were moments of silence taken, but what struck me the most was the fear that spread as a result of the shooting. New policies are being rolled out. New trainings are being undertaken. But, this “new” is only an immediate fear-based reaction to a tragic event. They are simply band-aids for bullet wounds — ultimately useless. The problem isn’t with security. The problem isn’t with policy. The problem is with mental health intervention and gun “regulation.” Until we can fix these elements — BOTH elements — tragedies like these will continue to haunt our screens and pervade our lives.
Personally, I am not a gun proponent or advocate; however, I am a proponent of our rights as American citizens. The second 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.” While this gives us the right to keep and bear arms, it does not give us the right to commit senseless acts of violence with these arms. Moreover, it is important to understand the context in which this amendment was written. In 1789, when the Constitution was finally ratified, the newly established “United States” was just coming off of a war with its colonizers: Great Britain. The British Empire was large and ruled over most of the world. Colonies that rebelled were given strict mandates and new laws that quelled the ideas of revolution because colonizers would strip colonies of the means of rebellion. The founding fathers wanted to ensure this didn’t happen in a free and democratic state. They wanted to protect the rights of the people they governed. It wasn’t so the citizens could murder each other with weapons whenever someone looked at them wrong or angered them or slighted them in some way. It was to protect their rights to exist as human beings.
I understand that the 2nd amendment was put into place for a reason — to protect ordinary citizens from a potentially tyrannical government. I understand that guns are used for hunting, and that that’s a major way of life for many Americans. However, the founding fathers did not intend for people to own or have access to high-powered military-grade assault rifles and hunters do not need to spray an animal with 15 bullets per minute in order to take it down for sport.
You would think that the death of children would cause the country to demand change, but it wasn’t enough in 1999 or in 2012. Will it be enough in 2018?
Every mass shooting brings a cycle of thoughts and prayers, anger and blame, and discussions on mental health and gun violence. Then, nothing changes and people move on.
Not this time.
As a society, as human beings, we cannot continue this cycle of apathy. When our founding fathers wanted to protect the rights of citizens, they wrote the Declaration of Independence. In it, they noted that “governments are instituted among men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed — that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government.” And, fortunately, the United States is a representative democracy that elects new leaders every two, four, or six years. So, if our leaders refuse to take action, we, as a people can refuse to re-elect them. If we cannot find viable solutions to these massive problems, then we will continue to have massive casualties as a result. It’s time that we make a change, and that change starts with “we the people.”
Take your cue from these students at Stoneman Douglas. They’re fighting for change. The kids are fighting for change. As adults, are we going to support them? Or stand idly by as we watch more and more children succumb to gun violence? It’s your choice, and the time to choose is now.