The March For Our Lives--Why Now and Not Then?
We are almost twenty years removed from the Columbine massacre. I was already five years out of high school when it occurred. I attended a rural school where there were gun racks in the back of trucks, and a hunter could take one full day off during hunting season. It was just how things were. I never gave a thought to my safety at school.
There had been lots of school shootings ahead of my time in K-12 public schools. I just never had heard of them. I'm not sure why this is. (A list is available on Wikipedia here) I think that perhaps it was that of the mass-shootings, most were on college campuses until then, and those that were on k-12 campuses, for the most part, were treated as localized incidents resulting from some interpersonal dispute or another. Columbine changed that perception. Since 1999, we've had several more school shootings, but the most notable are Newtown and now Parkland.
Let me make it clear at this point, that I am proud of the way the students of Parkland, and America in general have rallied around this issue. I have high hopes for this work. There was an outcry after Columbine, and the result was trigger locks, some purchasing restrictions, and rules against selling imported high volume magazines. After Sandy Hook, several state-level actions were taken. Most of these responses read like concessions made in the spirit of appeasement to the gun lobby. The difference this time around is that the kids of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas themselves are taking the lead, and it seems that, for now, they are standing their ground--thank goodness. While one would think that Sandy Hook would have precipitated the long-awaited change, consider this: that no matter how powerful it may have been for Sandy Hook Elementary students to go public, it would have been nothing less than emotional abuse for them.
What connects these three mass school shootings is that there were assault weapons used. The three worst k-12 school shootings in America are connected in this way. If one looks at the list I hyperlinked above, it will become apparent that while there may be high injury rates on some of the other incidents, the fatalities are much lower. This is not to discount even one of the lives lost in the multitude of incidents that have occurred in the past, but rather to illustrate that when a rapid-fire, high-capacity weapon becomes part of one of these shooters' arsenals, the only result is more death. And that goes for non-school incidents as well. Take the Aurora theater, the Orlando Pulse Nightclub, and the Vegas incidents as examples.
I think what has allowed the voices of the students to become so prominent is that the rallies after the other incidents have been led by parents. I don't want to think that the US is so jaded that it disregards the sorrow of a parent mourning the death of a child, but I'm not sure what else to think. Perhaps it is easier for some to think, "that's so sad that they lost their child," which also can mean that it becomes a thing that has happened to someone else. "Happened," as in past tense. We can move on. However, with these students' insistence upon being heard, and their presence in the public eye as survivors, victims, or potential targets, perhaps there is a different sense of what is at stake here. It shifts from being an issue about mourning parents, to children who are in jeopardy.
But position alone is not what is moving this march--it is also that the kids from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas are savvy to new media, as are so many high school students now. They do not have to wait for a reporter to come to them. They do not have to wait for someone to edit their experience. They can take the reins and do it themselves. And, if what is in this Slate article is true, the faculty at the high school helped prepare these young men and women to not only have a voice, but how to use it. I wish them the best in their mission, and laud the work of those who are joining them.