by guest writer Sean P. Dailey
Seven days after seventeen Florida high school students were gunned down in the third worst school shooting in American history*, a motion to take up an assault weapons ban failed in the Florida state House of Representatives 36-71. The representatives chose to keep assault weapons on our streets while survivors of the February 14 massacre, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, watched from the gallery. I’d say welcome to the world, students, except they already know, all too well, that this is the world. That it is still run by craven and greedy adults who care more for the special interests who pull their strings than for the safety of children.
These students have known this their whole lives. A world ruled by money and violence is the only world they’ve ever lived in.
They have known trials we can’t even begin to imagine. Even the oldest of them, aged 18, have never known a world without war. Our war in Afghanistan is the longest in U.S history and it shows no signs of ending. Consider this: kids born in 2000 who join the military are being sent to the same spots in Afghanistan their parents deployed to in 2001. Todays’ high school students have grown up in a world where school intruder drills are a regular thing. All we had were fire drills. Schools do bomb threat drills, but at my son’s high school they don’t need to because thanks to actual bomb threats, they’ve had to evacuate the school at least four times this year.
Then there’s social media and smart phones, which make bullying possible on a scale never before imagined. Do something stupid, and it’s photographed and spread literally around the world in seconds. Young boys and girls can be harassed by hundreds if not thousands of total strangers. On the other hand, social media is a great uniting force: at Douglas High School last week, kids hiding from the gunman received counsel and encouragement on Twitter from survivors of prior school shootings.
And still, the presence of survivors of that most recent slaughter in the Florida Statehouse gallery a week later was not enough to move legislators to do a thing to protect children – or anyone else – from assailants with easy-to-obtain semi-automatic weapons.But politicians – in Florida and in Congress – are underestimating these students.
Young people have had enough. From Tallahassee to Washington, while politicians mumbled the usual platitudes about “thoughts and prayers” and counted their donations from the National Rifle Association, the Florida survivors organized. The March for Our Lives will take place March 24 in, as of this writing, fifty-one cities across the country and at the U.S. embassy in London. Another Women’s March is scheduled for March 14 and a National School Walk-Out is planned for April 20.
Get out. Demonstrate. Get noticed and be a nuisance. But that’s not all you can do. In Florida 204,125 teens turn 18 this year. Nationwide, 4.06 million young people will turn 18. Young people, I urge you: register to vote. Make registering to vote a birthday present to yourself. More than three decades ago my birthday present to myself on my 18th birthday was registering for the draft. Do something more hopeful, more optimistic, than that: register to vote. Then next November, vote. While the adults are crying “Now is not the time,” say to them, “No, now is the time. Get out of the way.” Throw out the bastards on the take from the NRA.
*It is actually tied for third with the University of Texas tower shooting in 1966. The second worst and worst school shootings in the U.S. are, respectively, Sandy Hook in 2012 (twenty-seven lives) and the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 (thirty-two lives).
image credit: www.flickr.com/photos/editor/19175977349