By Brittany Emsais
On Feb. 14, the lives of the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. were changed forever. A former student walked onto campus and began shooting, killing 17 people, injuring more, and altering the lives of so many in the process. In the weeks that followed these students chose not to recede quietly into the background, chose not to become just another school shooting (a terrifying statement in and of itself), but decided to protest instead. These students turned a tragic and horrific event into the Never Again movement, in the hope that the tragedy their school faced never happens again.
It has been a month since that horrible day, and in that month these students have done so much. They have orchestrated protests, talked with their politicians and the president, and have begun a fight against the NRA. These teens have faced so much criticism, and have used it to fuel their movement, a movement that seems to be gaining momentum. On March 14, exactly one month after the shooting, students from schools all across the nation walked out at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes, to represent and honor the 17 lives lost in Parkland. They disrupted class to demonstrate that 17 is not just a number to some people, but is now a number that will forever shape them. There was also the March For Our Lives they planned for March 24, that was originally just going to take place in Washington but resulted in more than 800 sister marches throughout the world, including one right here in Los Angeles. These marches brought out hundreds of thousands of people, who protested the inadequacy of the government in the aftermath of the shooting, and raised their voices to support gun control.
We are most definitely in need of tougher gun control, which includes raising the legal age for purchasing rifles from 18 to 21. While this may seem unfair to responsible young hunters, sacrifices need to be made for the greater good. Tough yet necessary gun control also includes banning all assault-style rifles. There is no need in this country for civilians to own such weapons. The main purpose of these rifles is to destroy, and their bullets are more destructive than those of any other weapon. They are not used to hunt, and I don’t know what situation in this country you would need to be protected from in which an assault-style rifle would be your weapon of choice. These weapons, while semi-automatic, can easily be made into automatic weapons with the purchase of a bump stock. While there have been steps to ban bump stocks and criminalize the possession of them, I still believe that we should ban assault-style rifles. Finally, we need more regulation of the sale of weapons as a whole. By this I mean that all weapon sales and weapons should be registered, and everyone selling a gun should be required to run a background check first. We should also criminalize the act of purchasing a gun on behalf of someone who cannot legally purchase or possess a weapon. While this may seem like common sense, this kind of regulation does not happen at gun shows. As the law stands, people can legally buy any type of gun without any proof of sale, background check, or other protective measures, in all but nine states.
The Parkland students have managed to impact politicians as well. Some politicians, such as Reps. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), have begun to introduce legislation to ban the AR-15, the weapon used in the shooting at Parkland. There is also legislation in the works to raise the purchasing age from 18 to 21 in Florida as well. Throughout the US, people have become more open to the idea of banning “assault-style rifles” and overall gun-control reform. There has been a movement of registered gun owners surrendering or in some cases even destroying their AR-15’s, because they have realized that they don’t need them, and that they care about the lives of children in the U.S. more than they do about their guns.
On the other hand, there has been a radical backlash against the idea of banning guns completely, or even just raising the purchasing age for a rifle from 18 to 21. Many people believe that a lack of guns, rather than the guns themselves, is the problem. This notion has fueled people like the president to push for legislation which would arm teachers, in an attempt to prevent another tragedy, or to at least provide students with protection from active shooters. The state of Florida has already passed a bill that would provide roughly $67 million to pay an average of 10 teachers per school to undergo extensive training and be permitted to carry a concealed weapon. Since this bill was passed, there have been at least two reported incidents nationwide of armed teachers firing their weapons without cause. One of these incidents occurred here in Southern California. The argument made by proponents of this legislation is that arming teachers will provide students with more safety and security, but these recent events seems to show otherwise. They demonstrate that teachers cannot possibly be made responsible for handling a weapon while surrounded by students, because of the risks such responsibility poses. Clearly, putting guns in the classroom does not keep students safer. Hopefully these tragic accidents will impede the passage of more legislation of this kind.
Overall, it has been an eventful couple of months since the Parkland shooting, and things don’t seem to be slowing down. There have indeed been school shootings and acts of gun violence since then, but there also seems to be a tangible change taking place in this nation regarding people’s views towards guns. Despite the backlash, there has been progress made. The recent gun control legislation passed shows that people are aware of the issues and are open to trying to fix them. There is always going to be some resistance to change; that’s just human nature. If the change is one that attempts to overturn long-held and passionately-held traditions and ideologies, then reactionary anger is inevitable. As students, we must continue the fight for common-sense gun control, in the hope that our opponents will eventually lay down their arms, and lend a hand as we try to create a more peaceful world.