Today’s high school students were born and have grown up in an era of active shooter drills and other safety efforts at schools.
Some have grown to see their once open elementary school campus become blocked off by metal doors, resembling a prison even among the vibrant murals decorating its quad.
But those precautions were unable to prevent the carnage from continuing. There have been at least 170 school shootings since Columbine in 1999, in addition to hundreds of other mass shootings including the five deadliest shootings in U.S. history in the past 11 years alone.
However, the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida shooting is different than those the nation has seen before.
Instead of seeing footage of vigils and eulogies, we are seeing images of the survivors fighting back.
It’s no wonder then that many high school students have had enough. They watched as news unfolded about yet another school shooting with the same type of semi-automatic rifle used in other mass shootings in recent years.
Often times, students are accused of being desensitized to violence with the blame falling on the shoulders of the video game industry and Hollywood’s heavy increase in violent action movies.
They’ve grown up with the knowledge that a shooter could murder them and their classmates at any given day.
They’ve also grown up with the knowledge that their deaths would result in no more than a series of thoughts and prayers before their images faded away with the next school shooting.
Students from Douglas High School are doing their part to make sure this time is different.
Cameron Kasky, Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg are at the forefront of the Never Again movement.
Together they created the March of Our Lives protest. The March for Our Lives protest will take place in Washington D.C. on March 24.
Their mission is to protect kids, not guns.
They’ve rallied together to demand that lawmakers do something more than talk a big game and then do nothing of significance.
Ideas floating around the speeches of politicians include raising the age at which assault rifles can be bought to 21, implementing the same three-day waiting period for assault rifles as is required for handguns and creating a restraining order to prevent someone who poses a threat from possessing firearms.
Lawmakers have also discussed increased funding for mental health services, law enforcement officers and improved safety measures at schools.
While these are worthwhile ideas, we, the Viewpoints Editorial Board, believe that they shouldn’t come at the exclusion of stronger gun control laws.
Assault rifles and large-capacity ammunition magazines should be banned across the country. It is no coincidence that mass shootings have become more frequent and deadlier since a federal assault weapons ban expired in 2004.
The United States is an outlier among the developed world in its high rate of gun ownership and gun deaths. Continuing to expand the availability of guns and the ability to carry them in public won’t change this distinction.
The students from Douglas High School are showing the rest of us how changing things is done. But the rallies they have planned aren’t enough. All of us need to need to vote, especially the young people whose turnout numbers have traditionally been low.
Don’t let the legislature throw a few shout outs toward mental health funding and school safety measures and then act like the problem is solved.
We have to light a fire under these lawmakers the same way the National Rifle Association has for years.
We need to keep pressure on lawmakers to include gun control measures at the forefront of any solution to help prevent school shootings.
These students are doing what the adults in power refuse to do.
They are refusing to let another mass shooting fade into the void of empty promises made by those that are supposed to protect them.
They are taking back the narrative, no longer as the victims but as the fighters.