From Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, to Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and 150 other school shootings in the past decade, it’s clear our generation has failed its responsibility to stand up to the political influence and money of the National Rifle Association. It may take a child of the generation we have failed to lead us out of the choice we have made of guns over the lives of our children. We could have stopped it, but we didn’t.
But the killings of their classmates in Florida may have awoken a spirit in these high school students, who should be planning their year-end prom, not attending funerals for people they have known since kindergarten. Maybe this band of teenagers will grow into adults who can do the job at which we have failed.
We must hope so, or it is possible the carnage won’t be states away. It might be right here in Federal Way.
Even with 97 percent of the public in favor of some type of gun control, President Donald Trump and Congress continue to do nothing but deflect and hide behind an amendment that was intended for one-shot flintlock muskets, not AR-15s that can shoot hundreds of rounds per minute.
Members of Congress have received millions of dollars of campaign donations from the NRA. The president received $42 million in support from the NRA, and he has adopted their position of arming teachers and administrators with guns. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee confronted Trump on that issue and suggested he do less tweeting and more listening as teachers do not want more guns on campus. Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell agreed with Inslee, and both know police don’t want to enter a school trying to figure out which person with a gun is the bad guy.
Our national leaders blame mental illness. But Trump’s budget cut funds for mental illness, and last year he signed a bill that made it easier for the mentally ill to get a gun. After Las Vegas, politicians refused to act on bump stocks because discussion would politicize the issue — a sad ruse to avoid debate of why people died.
But history has taught us that great change is frequently led by the young who want to improve the world we live in and are not bound by the status quo or outdated views. The nation’s youth led the movement to stop the Vietnam War and to start the civil rights movement. Young Freedom Riders put their lives in jeopardy because equality was more important than tolerating bigotry.
The surviving students at Stoneman Douglas High School have conducted themselves in a manner that would make any parent’s chest swell with pride if that were their child. Showing a maturity beyond their years, they have confronted lawmakers with facts and passion. They have seen the results firsthand of the lack of rational gun control.
Last weekend, the Florida Senate voted down a proposal to ban assault weapons, then paused for a moment of silence to honor the victims of Parkland. That hypocrisy will not be forgotten.
Political fear of the NRA will eventually be defeated by this generation that won’t be told no.
A recent PEW study found that Millennials and Gen Xers have far more liberal views on cultural and social issues than the generations that preceded them. From 2011 to now, the percentage of Millennials with more liberal views has increased from 38 percent to 57 percent. The Gen Xers have moved up to 43 percent. They believe that gun ownership comes with rules and responsibility. They want rational gun control and want to be the last “shooter on campus” generation.
Already corporations such as Wal-Mart and Dick’s Sporting Goods have said they won’t sell firearms to anyone younger than 21. Hertz, Met Life and Delta Airlines have cut ties with the NRA.
On March 24, there will be a national “March For Our Lives” in Washington D.C., with the children of Parkland, Florida, leading the way. Student-initiated school walkouts and walks in Federal Way are planned for March 14, March 24 and April 20.
Even though classes will proceed as normal, Federal Way students with parental consent may choose to join the walkout. The school district’s first concern is the safety of the students and will want participants supervised. But to participate in this national debate is an opportunity too important to miss, and the students may learn a far bigger scholarly lesson than they could in any classroom that day.
When the candidates for Congress and the state Legislature knock on your door this summer, ask them where they stand on gun-control issues. And look at the legislative agenda from City Hall and the school district for the 2019 legislative session. Demand that both include classroom safety and gun control.
Two voting groups have the power to decide the elections this year if they vote — women and young people. With our children leading the way, maybe we can avoid a school in Federal Way being the next Sandy Hook or Stoneman Douglas and our children from attending the funerals of their classmates. We have the power to stop it. Will we this time? Or will we see this happen again?