Why enough is enough


Seventeen students. On Feb. 14 in Parkland, Fla. 17 students were gunned down inside Stoneman Douglas High School while their friends and schoolmates hid in classrooms petrified by the actions of a lone gunman. An event this shocking and horrifying should feel out of the ordinary, but these style of attacks seem to be an unfortunate part of student life in America.

However, this time feels different. Students are waking up and rejecting the status quo. No longer will thoughts and prayers suffice, students are demanding action. Hopelessness has been replaced with activism, despair has been replaced with drive.

This is why on March 14 students at not only DGS, but schools all throughout Chicagoland and the country are taking action. Students will walk out of their third period class at 10 a.m. and assemble in support of action to help prevent the pain and suffering that the students at Stoneman Douglas felt from ever happening again.

Calls for a walkout have been met by resistance from those who believe that gun control is not an effective way to prevent tragedies, but there’s a second criticism of the idea of the effectiveness of a walkout on a blanket level. No matter a person’s views on gun control, they should support students’ right to protest and respect the effectiveness of a student walkout.

Student protest has an important and storied history in this country. From the students who protested the Vietnam War in the 60s and 70s to the students who led sit-ins during the Civil Rights Movement, protest in America has been led by and pushed forward by student activists.

It is hard to deny the effect of countrywide sit-ins and marches on changing public opinion and ultimately federal law. So why then is a student walkout met with criticism and a flippant attitude? Change will not happen overnight, but that is not a reason to not speak up.

Historically, change does not come easily, especially when the change being demanded—an overhaul of federal gun legislation—is both controversial and polarizing.

Students standing up for what they believe and not backing down in the face of criticism and consequence is both brave and admirable. Students should be applauded for having the courage to not sit by and watch tragedy unfold, but to fight back for what they believe in.

A student walkout doesn’t change the law, but it does change the discussion. A student walkout shows that students care enough to face consequences for what they believe. A student walkout shows students understand the value of civil disobedience and taking action in spite of the consequences.

This walkout is not in vain either. America remains the only developed country plagued by both school shootings and an epidemic of gun violence. This has led to the unfortunate but fitting headline run by The Onion seemingly monthly, “‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens”. The following chart shows how far of an outlier the U.S. in comparison to its peer nations.

Even within the U.S. there is clear evidence that an increase in the number of firearms is linked to more gun-related deaths. More guns leads to more gun deaths, not the other way around. One of the biggest issues related to the mass amount of guns in the U.S. is the prevalence of gun-related suicides particularly in states with high rates of gun ownership.

Gun control also has been shown to be effective. Following a mass shooting that left 35 dead in Australia in 1996, the country passed a sweeping gun buyback program, banned semi-automatic firearms and established a national gun registry. Both the firearm homicide rate and firearm suicide rate dropped dramatically according to research compiled by Harvard researchers.

My final point on gun control is in response to criticisms of strict gun control by pointing to Chicago, which does have strict gun laws and has not been able to shake its problems with gun violence. Over 60% of the guns used in crimes in Chicago came from outside the state—primarily from states with more lax regulations. This issue is explored further in an excellent FiveThirtyEight article linked here.

Some excellent explanations and discussions of the need for gun control can be found from Vox here, from ProPublica here and The Atlantic here.

So on March 14 respect the courage and activism of the students walking out, respect the important and impactful history of student protest in this country and respect that a productive discussion about gun control in this country is long overdue.