A gunman walks into a school. He - it's always a he - shoots and kills students, faculty, and staff. News outlets cover it exclusively and heartbreaking images go out to the world. Legislators offer thoughts and prayers. The president blames the victims. We all move on.
This is typical, no? Just a regular day in the good ole' United States of America.
The response to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has been both predictable and wildly unique. On one hand, you have legislators and pundits sending their thoughts and prayers – and not much else. But on the other hand, you have a group of victims that are speaking up for themselves, because they aren’t little kids this time. Some of them may even be old enough to vote in the upcoming midterm election, and that has vastly changed the way we’ve talked about Parkland.
Of course, these outspoken students have faced a variety of reactions. David Hogg was accused by some people, including Donald Trump Jr., of being a “crisis actor.” Emma Gonzalez has been criticized for speaking passionately at an anti-gun rally over the weekend. Sheryl Aquaroli broke down in tears as she watched the Florida House of Representatives vote down a motion to ban semiautomatic weapons and high capacity magazines. Students on Twitter have received criticisms for calling out legislators and even the president. Some critics have taken on a rather anti-millennial/Gen-Z stance, saying that students should have been calling 911 instead of recording on Snapchat. One student replied to those accusations by stating that 911 had told them to stop calling, because calling more wouldn’t get rescuers there any faster. Across the country, students are working together to stage walk-out protests, firmly telling school districts and legislators that enough is enough.
It is worth noting that Parkland, Florida, is considered one of the safest cities in the country. Nikolas Cruz was reported to the authorities multiple times in the days leading up to the shooting, and had even been under investigation by the FBI for a YouTube comment under his name that said he would “become a career school shooter.” As far as the students themselves are concerned, they did everything right. After incidents like these, you always hear it said that people who might be dangerous need to be reported, that it is the responsibility of those around them (who are often their victims) to make sure that they can’t hurt anyone. The Parkland shooting shows that you can do absolutely everything right, and the broken system will still allow people to slip through the cracks. Cruz was able to buy up to ten firearms in just the past year, despite having documented mental illnesses and a history of self-harm and use of racial slurs and hate symbols (documented in 2016 by the FLDCF). If our system were working, he should not have been able to buy even one firearm, as he should have been at least considered a suicide risk. However, FLDCF marked him as a low risk level, and the likelihood of him having undergone a background check or even been IDed when buying a gun is low.
This needs to stop. There have been at least 15 shootings or threats of gun violence at schools just in 2018 alone. I am tired of waking up every day and wondering if we’re going to be mourning today. I am tired of hearing the words school shooting and immediately feeling the urge to text my sister and make sure she’s okay. I am tired of watching my fellow citizens put their right to own a gun above my right, my sister’s right, my cousin’s right to stay alive. When I first heard about the Parkland shooting, all I heard was “school shooting in Florida.” I had no idea where in Florida, what level school, or if there were any deceased, and my first thought was worry for my 11-year-old cousin and my second thought, one I knew where it was, was a shake of the head and an “oh, those poor kids.”
That should not happen. This should not be normal. We should not be this desensitized to children losing their lives within our schools.
So please. Advocate for gun control. Advocate for stricter background checks, waiting periods, mental health evaluations. Advocate for better mental healthcare, for greater access to medication, for better access in general. Advocate for bans, because Chris Kyle's sacrifice shows that one gun against another is not a solution. You won't even have time. Advocate for bans on bump stocks, semiautomatic weapons, and high capacity magazines. No civilian needs those.
Advocate for the kids. Advocate for our future. Advocate for our safety. Advocate, and call, and vote.
Martin Duque Anguiano