It’s time for Ricketts to stand with students – not the NRA

Photo courtesy Wikicommons
Opinion Editor Jessica Wade shares her thoughts on Gov. Pete Ricketts invitation to the NRA.
Jessica Wade

Nine days after 17 people, many of them minors, were killed while attending a south Florida high school, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts posted in a Tweet encouragement for the National Rifle Association NRA) to hold its annual convention in Nebraska.

“@NRA – We want your convention in Nebraska. Nebraskans love our constitutional rights!” the tweet stated.

This invitation came after reports that officials in Dallas were urging the NRA to find another location for their annual convention, worried that the gathering would be met with protests and marches.

Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb released her own statement in response.

“The Nebraska Democratic Party stands with young people across our state and country who are demanding gun reform now…The NRA convention in Dallas will be met with fierce opposition and if they come to our state we will be in the streets,” Kleeb stated. “We know Ricketts and the NRA have a lot in common—both use their endless pot of money to buy elections and both think our teachers should be armed with guns in our schools.”

The tweet and response are perfect examples of the polarized debate on gun control that has spread throughout social media. In the days following the shooting, 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.

The impact of that debate changes when it’s politicians who are taking sides, and Ricketts chose the side of the NRA. This shouldn’t be too surprising, the association and Ricketts have backed each other for years.

In 2014, Ricketts received the highest rating the NRA gives to a candidate without a voting record.

“On behalf of our five million members across the country, the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF) is proud to endorse Pete Ricketts for governor of Nebraska,” the NRA stated in 2014.

Ricketts also released a statement that he opposes restrictions on the sale of AR-15s, the semi-automatic weapon used to carry out the killings of 17 people inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

This response raises the question—is Ricketts protecting the rights of Nebraskan AR-15 owners, or is he protecting the institution that helped him to become governor? Whichever the answer, he is certainly not protecting the American teenagers who, according to Health Affairs, are 49 percent more likely to fall victim to the epidemic of mass shootings compared with the world’s other wealthiest countries.

High school and college students across the country have marched in solidarity with the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and UNO freshman Torie Walenz is helping to plan the Omaha March for Our Lives, which is set to take place March 24.

Walnez said that after the most recent school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida survivor Cameron Kasky along with other survivors, organized the movement March for Our Lives.

“The demonstration at UNO will mimic the walk-outs and marches shown across the nation that followed the Parkland shooting, and we wish to show that UNO students stand in solidarity with Parkland and that we demand action in regards to gun reform,” Walenz said.

Walenz said that the UNO event date is not set in stone yet, but they are thinking March 21 in order to not conflict with Omaha’s march.

“I wasn’t even born when Columbine happened, and I’ve been doing lockdown drills since I was in preschool. Even though this directly impacts them, high-school students are too young to vote, they have no voice in their own safety,” Walenz said. “As young college students, many of us most likely had the same upbringing in the post-Columbine public academic system as these high schoolers did, but the difference is we can vote, and we can use our voices to demand gun reform.”

Young people in America are tired of getting gun downed in classrooms, it’s time for politicians like Ricketts to stand with them.