#NeverAgain, 2nd Amendment, Assault Weapons, Brady Bill, Cameron Kasky, Columbine, David Hogg, Emma Gonzalez, Florida, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Mass Shootings, Parkland Shooting, Partnership for a Drug-Free America, Realism, Sophie Whitney, War on Drugs
With all of the fierce courage and eloquence of Marjory Stoneman Douglas herself, students from the Parkland, Florida high school have stepped up and reignited a movement. Emma Gonzales, David Hogg, Cameron Kasky, Sophie Whitney, and so many others from the school have turned their grief, sorrow, and anger into activism in the past seven days. This in the wake of a mass shooting that left 14 classmates and three teachers dead and another 17 wounded. Not only this. High school students from my son’s in Silver Spring to those all across the US have declared this chapter of the gun control movement “Never Again,” and have already staged walkouts and protest demonstrations that could be a watershed in a long-suffering push to end wanton gun violence.
I, for one, hope that they never stay quiet again. I hope, for their sakes (and for mine) that there is never another mass shooting at a public school or anywhere else. But I’m a historian and an educator, not Pollyanna. I cannot afford such a lofty wish, not when there’s so much work to do. That’s why I’m glad that post-millennial teenagers are standing up and taking on this issue. With enough pressure and long-term strategizing, they may well be able to achieve some measure of gun control in the US for the first time in the nation’s history.
But we’re not going to get there with mealy-mouthed proposals and idiotic ideas. Arming teachers? Arming veterans as volunteers? Putting more police in schools? Really? How stupid does anyone have to be to believe that more people with guns in public spaces with large numbers of other people to stop a potential threat is a good idea? That’s like saying every country in the world should have as many nuclear weapons as Israel or Pakistan. Because everyone sleeps better knowing that on the wrong day and with the wrong person, they and their families could be vaporized!
Even half-baked measures like age limits, more extensive background checks, and a ban on assault rifles (the old 1994 Brady Bill and the 1994 Crime Bill, really) do little in the end to prevent mass shootings. After all, Jonesboro, Columbine, and the Georgia day trader massacres all occurred between 1994 and when the federal assault weapons ban expired in 2004. Even if it was possible, turning the clock back to the 1990s would still mean that most Americans willing to use guns to kill themselves and others indiscriminately will be more than able to do just that.
Though “Never Again” is overused (think Holocaust and 9/11 here), the idea of working without ceasing on making America as gun-free as possible should be the long-term goal. I think that the nation should mobilize for a War on Guns, just like it did in the 1980s for a War on Drugs, and in the 1970s against drunk driving. Only, without an eye toward racial stereotypes of Black pathologies and cultural dependency on the one hand, and the assumption of White goodness on the other. After all, White males own the vast majority of guns in the US. I think that children, teenagers, and the young adults that are part of my son’s generation should lead the charge. Not conservative dumb asses who believed weed was a gateway drug to cocaine and heroin (look where that got us).
Just like we have a Partnership for a Drug-Free America, we need a Partnership for a Gun-Free America. We need graphic commercials demonstrating what occurs when a bullet rips through flesh, disintegrates bone and nerves, and pummels brain matter. We need commercials where a mass shooter kills a bunch of people and then is somehow captured. One where the father asks
“Where did you get the guns? Who did you learn this from?”
“You, all right! I learned it by watching you!,” the son would and should say.
Why? Because, despite the relatively diversity of the student body at Stoneman Douglas High School and despite the pain of what those students went through, they are hardly alone in their suffering. So many Americans of color know this pain, too, between crime-related shootings in poorer communities and the police state that is all about shooting and killing much, much, much more than deescalation of potential threats. While I would’ve been proud to have a daughter like Emma Gonzales, I also want to not worry that some racist, trigger-happy cop or some random White supremacist/misogynist (the typical profile of a mass shooter) will one day cross paths with my son.
So many Whites know this pain as well. For their access to guns has ripped apart their families, between the accidental shootings, suicides, and family annihilators. So many own guns out of fear of crime (really, a proxy for their fear/hatred/disdain for the Black and Brown) or a need to feel powerful, this despite the evidence that most people never get to use their guns when they are the victims of crime.
What I want ultimately, is the repeal of the Second Amendment. The US needs to go the way of Japan, the UK, and so many other countries, where some older firearms or some guns that are specifically for hunting may be kept, everything else must go. This means no firearms for law enforcement as well. This is what the more radical of us want. This is what Black Lives Matter wants. I’m sure so many who’ve survived these mass shootings would at least strongly consider this proposition.
There will be those who’ll say, “Not a chance in Hell! If someone comes for my guns, I’ll put them in a bodybag!” I’m not arguing the Second Amendment will be gone today. Or that it’ll be gone tomorrow. But with the kind of sustained effort that only youth, mass mobilization, and coalition-building can bring, maybe America can get part of the way there in the next decade or two. Or not.