What does it take? The Parkland shooting and gun control in America

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What does it take? The Parkland shooting and gun control in America

Josh Rochlin, Opinions Editor

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When the news broke on Valentine’s Day, a month ago, that a shooting had occured at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, my mind sunk, and my heart wept from within.

I was stone-faced.

An emptiness that was filled with a little bit of numbness overcame me. I was at my grandparents’ house with my mom and my brother, while my father was still at work. I looked around my grandparents’ den as we all stared profusely, with sullen stares, at the CNN chyron, which read: “17 PEOPLE DEAD IN FLORIDA SCHOOL SHOOTING.” I then swept my sulky eyes around the den once again, and placed the thought: How, in the United States, can a child say goodbye to their parent in the morning before they head off to school, and never return home for their parent to ask the old, hated cliche, “How was your day?” It does not make any sense to me. It should not make sense to anyone.

Phil Mudd, a hardened ex-FBI agent and now a CNN counterrorism analyst, broke down in a raw display of emotion upon being asked by Wolf Blitzer the day of the shooting about his perspective. Mudd said, “A child of God is dead. Cannot we acknowledge in this country that we cannot accept this?”

And at that point, watching a resilient FBI agent become plagued with such devouring sadness, I thought to myself: the post-mass shooting vicious cycle is going to continue. Congress will try, like Mudd said, to realize that children being shot and killed at school is a really bad problem (probably the worst of problems), but then the majority of Republicans, and some Democrats, will resort to their happy place (their cash-filled vaults with NRA blood money), and discern that their thoughts and prayers will be enough to satisfy the eternal grief, heartache, and suffering that was loaded on parents who did not see their kids return home from Stoneman Douglas, and the eternal grief, heartache, and suffering that will be loaded on parents in the future who will not see their kids return home.

To this day, a month removed from the shooting, Mudd’s words still dance in my mind, reminding me that this generation, my generation, has the unique power and unrelenting resolve to ensure the families, friends, and neighbors of the 17 people who lost their lives that something will change.

David Hogg will not accept it. Emma González will not accept it. Cameron Kasky will not accept it.

No kid is going to accept it. No parent is going to accept it.

Only the adults, the petty, foolish lawmaking schmucks who sleep peacefully in their beds at night — while parents Fred Guttenberg, Lori Alhadeff, and Andrew Pollack, to name a few, constantly weep and are tortured over the harsh reality in that they will never see their children again — will have to learn how to not accept their American sons and daughters being killed in school.

To our legislators, Republicans and Democrats, we are your employers. You do not work on behalf of your party. You do not work on behalf of the NRA. You do not work on behalf of the president.

You work for us.

Come the midterm elections, it will be time to run out of office those who have failed to protect us, who have failed to let the children of Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, and Parkland live the rest of their lives. You are mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles. It is your first duty to protect your own children. Why are you so hesitant to protect the lives of your neighbors’ children, your friend’s children, your constituents’ children? What does it take?

When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, Congress authorized the Gulf War. When nearly 3,000 people died in the 9/11 attacks, airport security measures were vastly increased, and President George W. Bush declared the War on Terror almost a month later. When 17 people were savagely murdered in a high school, a sanctuary where young people come to learn, make lasting memories, and enjoy the blessings of just being a kid, Congress, to the month anniversary of the massacre, has done absolutely, positively, nothing.

Nothing.

Just like Mr. Guttenberg rightfully berated Florida Sen. Marco Rubio at the CNN town hall, calling his response to the shooting, and the response of the president, “pathetically weak,” Congress has, expectedly, been so as well.

We are not asking for our schools to be protected like Ft. Knox. We are not asking for our teachers to undergo police-like or soldier-like training to be able to carry and to shoot a gun. We are not asking for fire to be fought with fire.

We are asking for weapons of war to be controlled and taken off American streets. We are asking for laws that prevent people with mental illnesses from obtaining a firearm. We are asking for a stronger background check system.

We are asking for our voices to be heard, and our lives to be saved. I don’t think that is too much to ask for.

The support for stricter gun laws is the highest since 1993. More than half of U.S. adults do not favor teachers and officials carrying guns in K-12 schools. Eighty-nine percent of voters support preventing the sale of all firearms to people reported dangerous to law enforcement by mental-health providers. About 70 percent want to ban assault-style weapons.

According to economist Richard Florida, states with stronger gun control laws experience fewer gun-related deaths. New Jersey has the fourth-lowest gun ownership among U.S. adults (about 11 percent), and has the sixth-lowest amount of gun deaths per 100,000 residents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. After a 1996 mass shooting in Australia in which 35 people were killed, the country enacted the buyback law to toughen rules on gun ownership. The law has prevented 16 mass shootings since 1996. It is not a coincidence. More guns is not the answer.

Martin Luther King said, “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” Until our lawmakers pass a comprehensive package of gun reform legislation, your young constituents will continue to look at the blood on your hands.

We, the members of Generation Z, have been born into a time period that has been charged with nothing but death, destruction, and massacre. The five deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history have occurred just within the past 11 years. There have been about 188 shootings at schools and universities since 2000. Death by firearm is the third-leading cause of death among U.S. children aged 1 to 17. Seven children and teens are killed each day by guns in the U.S. We deserve a happier and less-violent world. We deserve to come home from a day of school and get a goodnight kiss from our parents. We deserve to wake up the next morning and feel safe going to school. Our parents deserve to see us go off to school with a smile on our face.

We do not deserve to die in our schools. It is all that we ask for.

To David, Emma, Cameron, and to all the Stoneman leaders of the #NeverAgain movement, we thank you for carrying the backs of every kid who wants to see change, and we got your backs over here at Westwood. Our lawmakers should have only half the heart and courage that you all so exceptionally exude.

National School Walkout Day and the March for Our Lives are definitely steps in the right direction. But, if we want action now – real action – we have to stay steadfast in our commitments. By 2024, the kids of Generation Z will make up 1 in every 10 eligible voters. We cannot let up. We have to do our homework and continue to be relentless. There is no finish line.

Barack Obama said that “we are the change that we seek.” So, let it be said: We are here to fix this mess. We are not going anywhere. To those in power, this teen revolution is something you have never seen before. This is a movement that you are going to have to address head-on, quickly, because this is the most impatient group of kids that you will ever know. This generation of new-found political activists and social leaders will be the expectations and desires of every sibling that lost their admired brother or sister, of every person that lost their cherished friend, of every student that lost their beloved teacher or coach, and of every parent that lost their treasured child on that tragic Valentine’s Day.

The kids are alright.

 

Alyssa Alhadeff, 14

Scott Beigel, 35

Martin Duque Anguiano, 14

Nicholas Dworet, 17

Aaron Feis, 37

Jamie Guttenberg, 14

Chris Hixon, 49

Luke Hoyer, 15

Cara Loughran, 14

Gina Montalto, 14

Joaquin Oliver, 17

Alaina Petty, 14

Meadow Pollack, 18

Helena Ramsay, 17

Alex Schachter, 14

Carmen Schentrup, 16

Peter Wang, 15

 

May their memories live on forever.

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