Another day, another mass shooting, another look at this nation’s reality.
Seventeen people, many of them minors, were murdered while attending a south Florida high school on Feb. 14. Like the many mass shootings before, the details of the tragedy were laid out for the public in the days following. Social media platforms were filled with calls to protect the American freedom of owning a firearm and calls to protect the lives of America’s children, as if the two are mutually exclusive. Politicians will talk, lobbyists will advocate and the discussion will sputter out. That is, until the next mass shooting.
This cycle is uniquely American and until it is broken, the reality of life in the United States is that teenagers are 49 percent more likely to fall victim to the epidemic of mass shootings compared with the world’s other wealthiest countries. Study after study, including one released by The Pediatrics journal last summer reporting that gunfire kills an average of 25 children ages 17 and under each week, show the danger of growing up in this country.
The American tradition of watching students get gunned down and choosing inaction can be stopped, and it’s the students of America with the power to do so.
High school students across the nation, including students from several Omaha school districts, staged walkouts on Feb. 21 to call on lawmakers to confront gun violence, and their calls for change are being heard.
President Donald Trump has made moves in the right direction, ordering that regulations be written to ban bump stocks, devices that can make an automatic weapon out of a semiautomatic. Former Nebraska Democratic Rep. Brad Ashford met with a group of high school students Feb. 22 and called for the banning of assault rifles and the empowerment of students to promote change.
“In my lifetime working on this issue, and it’s been 35 years, the response by you all and your peers in Florida and across the country is life changing, it’s absolutely historic,” Ashford said while addressing the high school students attending the discussion.
These survivors and activists for change are not “unqualified” to speak about the gun violence they’ve witnessed first-hand like a Fox News reporter suggested last week, they are not “crisis actors” like an aide to Florida Rep. Shawn Harrison told a reporter. These teens are the future of America, and they tired of being killed before they are old enough to vote.
“If you have any heart, or care about anyone or anything, you need to be an advocate for change,” 15-year-old Christine Yared wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. “Don’t let any more children suffer like we have. Don’t continue this cycle. This may not seem relevant to you. But next time it could be your family, your friends, your neighbors. Next time, it could be you.”
The survivors of the Florida high school shooting are shouting into an abyss of inaction and callousness, maybe this time someone will listen.