Students deserve to feel safe at school. It should not be a controversial statement, and yet America finds itself unwilling to keep its children safe. Saying that America is unable to keep children safe would be a lie, because this is the only first-world nation in which this is a problem.
The answer is simple, but American politicians reject it in favor of the cash and gifts offered by the National Rifle Association (NRA). The lives of children are bought and sold on Capitol Hill. Now, those children have begun to fight back, but the adults that leave them in danger have already decided not to listen.
In response to nationwide calls for students to walk out of school to protest gun violence, the hashtag #WalkUpNotOut began circulating on social media. It is an insult to the victims and survivors of gun violence, as well as victims of bullying.
The hashtag promotes students approaching others that have experienced bullying or seem to be having a hard time. That seems like a good thing, but it has several side effects.
First, #WalkUpNotOut puts the responsibility for a child or teenager’s mental health and actions on their peers. It is not fair or reasonable to expect kids to notice unusual behavior or protect themselves from gun violence. Adults created, perpetuated and continue to perpetuate the gun violence issue. It should not be up to children to fix it, and this hashtag shifts the responsibility solely onto the shoulders of those too young to handle it.
#WalkUpNotOut also creates a false dichotomy between being a good citizen and protesting. If a student notices a classmate struggling and genuinely tries to help, that is amazing, but that does not mean that same student cannot speak out against the leaders of their community allowing them and their peers to be murdered.
The #WalkUpNotOut hashtag would have people believe that all victims of bullying are a potential school shooter and that every student who experiences mental illness has the potential for violence. Plenty of kids are bullied that never kill anyone. Plenty of kids have mental illnesses that do not wish to hurt their classmates. Maybe walking up to someone will get them help they need. It is a good practice. But it is not going to stop school shootings, and it is not a replacement for the true solution to the rampant gun violence in America.
The answer is so simple it hurts: ban assault weapons. Ban every single weapon whose only intended purpose is to tear apart human flesh. It is not nearly as difficult as right-wing politicians make it out to be, and the reason they make it out to be so difficult is because they are in the pocket of the NRA.
Adults have publicly mocked the teenagers leading the protests against the NRA and gun violence. People have claimed that they are too young to understand the issues at hand, but they are the ones that are forced to face the consequences brought on by a corrupt system. The revolution will come at the hands of the children who were told they could change the world.